It wasn’t long after 10 p.m. on Thursday Feb. 9, when Channel 12 starting reporting breaking news of the Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos protest from downtown Phoenix. I was restfully having a drink and starting to doze off, before live footage of upheaval and disturbance starting flowing through the tube. I was ready to call it a night, but suddenly got a bolt of energy, and the ambition to drive across Mesa, and into the middle of Phoenix, where the protests were being held.
It was hours before, when Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos (Lupe), 36, wife and mother of two, was apprehended and taken into custody at the office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters. It is the first known case from President Donald Trump’s executive order, which mandates the deportation of any undocumented immigrant found guilty of a crime. And, in Lupe’s case, the conviction was criminal impersonation. Stemming from a 2008 raid under former-Sheriff Joe Arpaio, where sheriff deputies raided Golfland Sunsplash and charged Lupe, among others, for using false identity – which gave her an ability to be employed. And, eventually, in her case, she was charged with a class-six felony.
I arrived shortly after 11 p.m. at Central Avenue and Palm Lane at the ICE building where approximately 80 or 90 young men and women were still protesting. There were two megaphones in use, a dru, and an American flag surrounded by a swarm of angry and fully-fueled demonstrators. The energy was still high as hours before the protestors had stopped an ICE transporter from deporting Lupe. Protestors locked arms and stood in front of the van. One man took it a step further by handcuffing his arms to the vans axle underneath a wheel well.
There were a dozen or so photojournalists with high-priced cameras capturing the scene. There seemed to be two dozen Phoenix police officials and also about a dozen un-uniformed agents roaming the area. But, for the most part, everything seemed peaceful. Police and journalists on one side of the street and the protestors on the other. There was also a Merry Pranksters-esque school bus covered in pink and purple with the writing “Let’s all be better Human beings” written on the side and with a hippie peace sign on the back. The bus was apparently picking up three or four people at a time and dropping them off at the demonstration.
The van is assumed to belong to Puente Arizona, a human rights organization of whom I’m well familiar with. Last year, on March 19, I attended Donald Trump’s rally at Fountain Hills Park out of curiosity and bewilderment. Sort of like a child being struck with awe from the oddities and freak shows advertised by a traveling circus. That Saturday morning of the rally, I packed my bag in my hotel room at the Talking Stick Resort from a long disruptive night of excessive and extravagant excitement to drive down Shea Blvd. and into Fountain Hills, just missing a roadblock to the Trump Rally set by Puente Arizona.
I didn’t start to connect the dots of what Puente Arizona was and how I was familiar with them until midnight when the mass of protestors started walking away from the ICE Headquarters and unto Central Avenue chanting “Our street!.. Our street!.. Our street!..”. And, just like on Shea Boulevard last year, they blocked Central Avenue and not only that, they proceeded to block the light rail from passing, thereby bringing it to a halt.
When faced with the threat of their community being torn apart by a new executive order signed by President Trump, the Puente Organization did what it knows how to do best. It was commendable to witness people standing for one another and risking their own freedom by breaking the law to protect members of their community by being their neighbor’s keeper.
R. Nicholas Evans
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