UKIAH 2/16/2017 — A small but spirited crowd of protesters and activists gathered outside the courthouse Thursday morning to show their support for immigrants. About two dozen people, ranging in age from toddlers to mid-seventies, waved signs in English and Spanish and chanted slogans in both languages. The action came as part of a nationwide “Day with Immigrants” protest, intend to highlight the economic benefit brought by immigrants to the U.S. It comes at a moment of great fear in immigrant communities across the county, including Mendocino County, where rumors that the federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would be at the protest to potentially deport people. This did not seem to be the case, though a Homeland Security vehicle was spotted monitoring a sister protest in Fortuna (from our sister site Kymkemp.com). Similar rumors have been circulating in Ukiah for the past few days, but there is not yet any evidence that they are true. However, substantial deportation raids have been taking place across the country and especially in Southern California.
The event was organized by Carina Barajas, 35, who was born in the U.S. and grew up in Mexico. Referring to the rising anti-immigrant climate in the country the first time protester explained, “We feel like we’re under attack.” Yesterday, when Barajas heard about the national strike, “A Day Without Immigrants,” that was planned for today, she invited her friends and family to join her at the courthouse. She said that when she told co-workers at Pomolita Middle School, where she works with special needs children, why she would not be coming in today, one co-worker predicted that she would get in “big trouble.” Barajas replied, “This is my big thing.”
Reactions to the protest were mostly positive, though two elderly white men asked separately why the children weren’t in school. Barajas smiled as another woman advised one of the men to mind his own business. The chanting broke off when a car containing a little boy wearing a glittery paper crown stopped at the light. Almost in unison, the protesters broke into a noisy rendition of “Happy Birthday,” until the car drove away. Another woman pulled up at the red light and leaned on her horn, waving excitedly, until the light turned green and she, too, went on her way.
A woman carrying a pot of burning aromatic herbs and a feathered headdress walked up to the group and offered to bathe the protesters in a cloud of smoke. She declined to give her name because of her job, and set the headdress and the smoking pot on the corner of Perkins and State Street as she joined the protesters.
Priscilla Hunter and Polly Girvin, of the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians, showed up around noon. Girvin invited a gay passerby to express the LGBTQ community’s support for immigrant rights, and announced that “The Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians stands with all brown people.” She also told a white man who expressed a lack of solidarity to “Go back to Europe, immigrant!” The man responded that “I am home!”
Hunter remarked that “It’s not just Mexican people who have concerns, because we’re all brown.”
Sarah Reith [email protected]