Thread: Rally 2/27/10
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Old 02-28-2010, 09:13 AM
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Rally time

Some tense moments at anti-illegal immigration rally, but no violence

We The People founder and spokesperson Raymond Herrera points to a counterprotest as he speaks at an anti illegal immigration rally held at the corner of Valencia Boulevard and Magic Mountain Parkway on Saturday.
By Dan Watson (The Signal)

By Jonathan Randles
Signal Staff Writer
661-259-1234 x519
Posted: Feb. 27, 2010 10:14 p.m.
POSTED Feb. 28, 2010 4:55 a.m.
4 Images

Demonstrators waved signs, politicians gave speeches and motorists honked in agreement at a Valencia street corner Saturday as a rally against illegal immigration drew some opposition, but no violence erupted during the heavily policed event.

"We're trying to protect the sovereignty of the nation before it turns into the Third World," said James Stepman, 44, one of about 75 people who turned out for the Save Our State rally despite the rain.

"People here are not haters or racists, but the media are trying to stereotype us," said Stepman, of Topanga Canyon.

Organizers urged supporters within a five-hour drive of Valencia to join in the rally on the corner of Valencia Boulevard and Magic Mountain Parkway.

Participants held signs that read "Amnesty would cost at least a trillion $$," "Create local jobs! Enforce immigration and employment laws" and "We support legal immigration." Organized by Save Our State, a group opposed to illegal immigration, the rally drew people from a number of like-minded groups.

It was the second such event staged in Santa Clarita within two months. At a January rally, comments from Santa Clarita Councilman Bob Kellar in support of one flag and one language drew a firestorm of criticism from immigrant-rights groups and some others but an outpouring of support from local residents.

Saturday's event, which began shortly after a cloudburst and was dampened about an hour and a half later by more rain, attracted about 25-30 counter-demonstrators who marched and chanted on Valencia Boulevard, carrying signs that read "Unity against racism. No KKK/SOS." Some of their signs were in Spanish.

The rally grew tense as the counter-demonstrators stood across the library parking lot driveway and chanted while Save Our State organizers opened the speech section of the event shortly after 11 a.m. with a prayer from Quartz Hill Pastor Audie Yancey.

The reverend called on the counter-demonstrators, chanting "No more hate," to be quiet during the prayer, but when they failed to comply he shouted, "If you can't respect America, at least you can respect God and shut up."

Facing the chanting demonstrators, he prayed, "Bless this meeting today, Lord. Drive these illegals back home. In Jesus's name we pray."

State Sen. George Runner, R-Antelope Valley, who was listed as one of the featured speakers, left the demonstration shortly after Yancey took the podium.

Runner's exit drew the ire of Frank Jorge, leader of the Antelope Valley Minutemen, whose speeches have occasionally advocated violence.

"Screw you, George Runner, we don't need you," he told the crowd, although Runner had already departed. "Get the hell out of my sight."

Reached by cell phone later Saturday, Runner said he had understood the event was a tea party-style rally against tax increases. He noted that Saturday was the one-year anniversary of the tea party anti-tax revolt.

"Quite frankly, when it got started I was concerned about the opening; it was way to confrontational with the protesters that were there," said Runner, who is seeking election to the Board of Equalization. "And it didn't seem to be accomplishing much."

Runner said as he was leaving, one of the rally organizers cursed at him.

The counter-demonstrators filed through the SOS crowd as they moved from Valencia Boulevard to Magic Mountain Parkway, where they held a much quieter series of speeches - many of them in Spanish. Robert Gittelson, an immigrant-rights leader, told the group its goals weren't that different than the Save Our State members' goals.

"We don't want bad things for this country. We want America to succeed," he said.

As Kellar took the podium at the main rally, he clearly stated he was speaking as a private citizen, not a city councilman.

Since he told those at the January rally that if supporting one flag and one language for America was racist, then he's a proud racist, Kellar said he has received thousands of e-mails and phone messages, 98 percent of them in support of his stance on illegal immigration.

"A few have suggested I owe an apology. They're going to have a long wait," Kellar said in a prepared speech.

The Canyon Country resident received praise and applause throughout the event and told the crowd that elected officials need to do more about illegal immigration.

"America has been invaded by an army of illegals that number 15 to 20 million people, and they never had to fire a shot," Kellar said.

"Americans are sick and tired of our elected leaders taking a do-nothing attitude when it comes to illegals in this country."

City Council candidate David Gauny, who is backed by Kellar in the April election, called Kellar's speech at the last rally "the shot heard round the world."

If elected, Gauny said he will seek a city ordinance that would ban Santa Clarita landlords from renting apartments or homes to illegal immigrants. Cities in Arizona have passed similar ordinances, he said.

"This is an issue that is far too important to be swept under the rug," Gauny said. "Streets in Canyon Country and Newhall are teeming with day laborers, many of whom are here illegally."

Gauny said in an interview that he empathizes with illegal immigrants who come to the country looking for work, but the fact remains that illegal immigration must be addressed locally.

"We should attack policy, not people," Gauny told the crowd. "This is a federal issue, a state issue, a local issue and a very personal issue."
The demonstration drew a few individuals who were apparently not affiliated with either side of the illegal immigration issue.

One man arrived carrying a large wooden cross with the words "Are you ready" painted on it.

A young woman said to be a CalArts student walked about in the crowd with a sandwich-board sign reading on both sides "Deep breaths."
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it's the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead
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