Refugee Supporters & Anti-Immigrant Protesters Face Off in Oracle (Images)

Supporters  lined the main drag in Oracle, with bilingual or Spanish signs welcoming the the refugee children.

Supporters lined the main drag in Oracle, with bilingual or Spanish signs welcoming the the refugee children.

Demonstrators with dueling banners and ideologies lined the roads of rural Oracle, Arizona on Tuesday awaiting the arrival of 40-60 child refugees. An estimated 150 protesters, dozens of law enforcement officers (including the K-9 unit), and every TV, print, and online journalist imaginable came out to “greet” the bus of unaccompanied Central American children.

Oracle residents and other refugee supporters from Somos America, Progressive Democrats of America, South Side Presbyterian Church, and the Alliance for Global Justice gathered at 6:30 a.m.

Oracle residents and other refugee supporters from Somos America, Progressive Democrats of America, South Side Presbyterian Church, and the Alliance for Global Justice gathered at 6:30 a.m.

The original anti-immigrant protest was organized by Oracle’s self-proclaimed “Paul Revere” Robert Skiba, who was tipped off regarding the busload of refugee children by Pinal County’s Tea Party Sheriff Paul Babeu. Babeu’s grandstanding on Facebook about the federal government’s failed immigration policies, and Skiba’s boasting about a bus blockade to multiple media outlets sparked a counter protest initiated by Oracle residents who were concerned about the welfare of the children. E-mail blasts, Facebook, Twitter, blog posts like this one, and a re-Tweet by Rachel Maddow’s blog brought out the crowds, including sympathizers on both sides who drove in from Tucson and Phoenix.

Much of the media coverage has focused on tiny events that occurred during the four hours that we all waited for the bus to arrive. (More details and photos after the jump.)

 

Babeu talks with refugee supporters and the media before going to the Tea Party camp to hold a press conference in the middle of the road no one was supposed to block.

Babeu talks with refugee supporters and the media before going to the Tea Party camp to hold a press conference in the middle of the road that no one was supposed to block.

CD1 Republican Candidate Adam Kwasman made headlines after he Tweeted about the scared children on the bus. Unfortunately for Kwasman, the two school buses who passed the groups were full of YMCA campers. The Y kids must have thought Oracle was a pretty schizophrenic town. As they passed the refugee supporters, we waved enthusiastically but wondered out loud why DHS put refugees on school buses. (The children and the bus drivers waved and smiled to us; they didn’t look scared to me!) When the buses got to the Tea Party corner, we heard shouting and lots of honking.

Except for a few tense moments, most of the day the Tea Party encampment was pretty calm. Lots of waiting, flags, and loud country music.

Except for a few tense moments, most of the day the Tea Party encampment was pretty calm. Lots of waiting, flags, and loud country music.

Other stories that hit big were the mariachis mixing it up with the Tea Party and Babeu holding court with the media. There has been much speculation– by the Arizona Daily Star, Arizona Central, and Facebook politicos– about Babeu’s motives for tipping off Skiba and firing up the Tea Party and the Arizona State Militia (J.T. Ready’s former group).

The untold story from Oracle is that of the humanitarian citizens who are concerned for the refugees’ welfare. Although there have been many estimates about the crowds, Babeu told the Tea Party camp that just as many or more supporters were down the road, ready to welcome the children. At one point, there were approximately 100 refugee supporters lining American Ave. and the Mt. Lemmon Highway with Spanish or bilingual signs of welcome. It was difficult to estimate the Tea Party camp, a few miles down the road, since there were so many law enforcement officers and media there. I spent more than an hour at the Tea Party end, and I believe at most there were about 50-60 actual protesters and armed militia.

Spanish sign which reads: Friend, don't be afraid. We  are here defending your rights.

The signs held by the two groups of protesters couldn’t have been more different in their messages. Here, a Spanish sign which reads: Friend, don’t be afraid. We are here defending your rights.

Throughout the day, there were rumors about when or if the buses would arrive. Although the crowds dwindled some, many held out until pro-pro-refugee organizer Frank Pierson told supporters that Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick’s office told them the buses were not coming that day, but that the children would come to Oracle in a few weeks.

At the supporter end of the road, the day closed with a group hug prayer led by Rev. John Fife, retired minister from the South Side Presbyterian Church and veteran Sanctuary Movement leader from the 1980s. Will there be a repeat of Tuesday in two weeks? Stay tuned. (For additional images, go here.)

Rev. John Fife leading a prayer for the safety of the refugee children before supporters dispersed.

Rev. John Fife leading a prayer for the safety of the refugee children before supporters dispersed.

 

Tea Party

Anti-immigrant Tea Party signs.

 

Arizona State Militia

Armed Arizona State Militia (in other words citizens with guns and matching uniforms)

 

Angels

Shielding angels balanced the militia.

4 responses to “Refugee Supporters & Anti-Immigrant Protesters Face Off in Oracle (Images)

  1. captain*arizona

    Remind them of this the next time one of theses racist oafs talk about this being a christian nation! What bus full of kids would jesus turn around and chase away?

  2. Good time for Babeau to stir things up. A last comment at the Phoenix New Times site posited that Babeau made the whole thing up, knowing that Skiba would act on the information thrown out to him. Certainly seems plausible. Start a riot and then come in and rescue the situation. Why don’t you try to track down Babeau’s sister, Lucy. She has the lowdown on her brother. She comments frequently at the Stephen Lemons’ site. I’m sure it would be enlightening.

    • There are several people who have posed that opinion. He certainly used the opportunity to grab the media spotlight and show off all of his toys. He probably had a dozen giant SVU– some marked and some unmarked– plus the K9 unit, a helicopter, and the ambulance– a huge law enforcement presence.