Off-Ramp sketch artist Mike Sheehan draws and writes from Murrieta, a flashpoint in America's undocumented migrant controversy.
Friday I went to the Murrieta immigration protest. I wanted to see it up close. When I got out of the car, I came to a little crossroads with a group of anti-immigration protestors yelling things at passing cars, like “The Obama administration is aiding and abetting the enemy!” or “Shame on the feds for letting the enemy get close to us!”
It was kind of surreal.
Another weird thing is protesters would start talking to each other about normal things — like TV shows and their kids — right after the outburst, like it had never happened. Then someone would say something from a car and they’d go right back to shouting.
The road to the main demonstration was blocked to cars, and police had set up a little canopy on the corner across from the protesters. The police were really calm throughout this whole thing.
One of the guys from the crowd on the corner kept baiting them, yelling things like, “I’d be ashamed to wear a police uniform today!” They barely acknowledged him.
It’s good that this was in the desert and it was a holiday. If this was going on in downtown Los Angeles or some other populated area with more people this could have gotten really ugly. No one was editing what they were saying.
I walked up the road to the main demonstration. When I got to the crowd, there were some Aztec (Danza Cuauhtemoc) dancers dancing and drumming. The air smelled like burning sage. It was a little chaotic but not hostile. Yet.
The police put two ribbons of caution tape down the center of the crowd. If you were walking up towards the demonstration you would join your tribe: right-wing thinkers on the right side, left-wing on the left. The police occupied an aisle between the tape at the center.
And then the whole thing devolved into name-calling.
I heard racial epithets on both sides. I could literally walk on one side and become a part of that mob and move to the other and do the same. Everyone was so self-absorbed they didn't pay me any mind.
It’s interesting that everyone kind-of threw out today's politically correct behavior. “Go back to Mexico!” was returned with volleys of ”Go back to Europe!”
I listened as two guys discussed whether a woman on the other side was wearing makeup in order to look Hispanic. Why they thought she would do this I have no idea.
But they all did seem to be very passionate about their stance; I'll give them that. It was blazing hot with no shade and no one ever ran out of energy. Ever. I was there from around 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. or so.
It was mostly the same people all day and they never let up. It takes a lot of commitment to be that loud and angry for that long.
Towards the end of the day I saw two women actually talking to each other. Both women were making their points in a non-aggressive, logical way. A few people had gathered around to listen. They chimed in here and there. They didn’t change each other’s minds but they did find some middle ground and agreed on a few points.
Too bad the whole day was wasted in a useless screaming match. The two that actually talked and listened to each other are the only ones I saw make any progress.