It was one of those scenes last Friday where a scheduled political rally starts on one side of the street, counter-protesters assemble on the other side and then things get disorderly when each camp crosses over and commingles in order to dilute the opposing camp's impact.
This one, held downtown at the state government building on Front Street, concerned immigration policy. Critics of Arnold Schwarzenegger were expressing displeasure with the governor's public embrace of the DIY immigration-law-enforcement group the Minuteman Project and his short-lived call to "close" the border as well as a campaign by some state lawmakers to form a new state border police.
On this side of the street was immigrant advocate Enrique Morones, going rapid-fire and stream-of-consciousness: "Well, we're here in a united front, saying no to the Minutemen. It's just such racist propaganda that's been taking place. We were out in Arizona last month; you see the Confederate flags, people with side arms-that's not a neighborhood watch. It's a very dangerous situation. We think it's terrible what Gov. Schwarzenegger has said-he made no mistake when he said, "Close the border.' And then he said the Minutemen are terrific. So, we want to be very clear to him, we'll never forget his actions; not only his words."
And on that side of the street, Ruben Garcia, vice-chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly of San Diego County: "We're here to let people know that the Hispanic community is not united, as [Morones] said. [Latinos] are not anti-Schwarzenegger; they're not anti-Bush-as a matter of fact, 45 percent of the Hispanic community voted for President Bush in the last election."
Morones and friends "are basically saying they want to open up the border," Garcia said. "If we do that, we have an un-secure country. This nation's a nation of laws. We have to obey the law. We have to identify the people coming in and know who's here in our country, otherwise we open ourselves up to terrorism [and] we open ourselves up to all kinds of trafficking, such as drug trafficking and even slavery... there's trafficking in prostitution-young Mexican girls and boys are brought over to this country and are made slaves, sex slaves here in our country. That's the kind of thing we don't want to see."
Back on this side of the street, Morones was informed of Garcia's comments. "There's Republican Latinos?" he quipped.