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Rally Repercussions

Both sides are upset following last week's demonstration gone awry


Fallout over events at Tucson's pro-immigration rally continues to drift out of the sky like the charred remnants of a flag.

The Monday, April 10, march, in which some 15,000 people left their homes, schools and places of work to join in the protest, concluded peacefully. However, the following rally at Armory Park was marred by violence shortly before it ended. A group of counter-demonstrators calling themselves the Border Guardians burned two Mexican flags, and scuffles broke out as officers escorted a teenage girl from the park for allegedly dousing one of the flags with water.

Six people were arrested as police tried to restore order. Pictures of the melee and of people coughing, spitting and dry-heaving from the effects of pepper spray were splashed across local TV news stations.

Now, rally organizers are demanding that city and police officials justify their actions, while Roy Warden, the most vocal in the group of counter-demonstrators, is pledging to continue staging what he calls "provocative acts."

Protest organizers gave a press conference Thursday, April 13, outside City Hall. Isabel Garcia, who spoke on behalf of the coalition of immigration and human-rights groups who organized the rally, said city and police officials had listened carefully to their concerns at a meeting.

The coalition wants an investigation of what they perceive as excessive force used by police to quell the disturbance, as well as an inquiry in to why the Border Guardians were allowed to stage their protest in the midst of their rally.

Organizers maintain that the sole purpose of the Border Guardians was to provoke a violent response from those attending the rally. Their right to free-speech protections should be limited by public-safety concerns, they said.

"If you're inciting a riot, you're not protected. If you're violating laws, you're not protected," Garcia said.

The coalition also asked city officials to drop charges against those who were arrested in the scuffle. A decision on that is up to the county attorney, said City Manager Mike Hein, who attended the meeting.

Hein told the Weekly that the police department and attorneys are conducting a review of events as "expeditiously" as possible. Once he receives information from them, he said, "we'll look at ways to potentially improve--should this ever happen again."

Sara Sandoval, the aunt of a 14-year-old girl who was pepper-sprayed by police, attended the press conference with her niece. Sandoval said officers were more concerned with protecting Border Guardians from those attending the rally than vice versa.

"The police were criminalizing us," she said. "It's completely unacceptable for them to treat us this way. They (the Border Guardians) have a right to speak their mind. They do not have the right to disturb a peaceful event, a peaceful rally. They do not have the right to make abusive hate speech."

Meanwhile, Roy Warden, the man at the rally who exhorted illegal immigrants to return to Mexico and retake that country from a ruling class that takes advantage of them, has been busy making more plans to burn Mexican flags.

On Sunday, April 16, Warden and two other people ignited a flag in front of the Mexican consulate on South Stone Avenue. He said burnings will continue on Cinco de Mayo--after he stocks up again on flags--wherever people gather to celebrate the holiday.

"Frankly, we're looking for a better-quality flag that will burn longer," he said, adding that he has also been experimenting with different methods of lighting them on fire. "We want something a little more dramatic, something we can hold up higher in the air."

Warden's zeal doesn't appear to have been diminished after being cited on charges of assault, reckless burning and criminal damage for alleged actions at the rally. He views his exploits as a wake-up call to a country that, in his opinion, is being overrun by illegal immigrants who are demanding rights they shouldn't have as noncitizens.

Warden's other crusades include an e-mail campaign in which he takes Arizona Daily Star stories on immigration and adds what he calls "political commentary" in highlighted or colored text. He then sends these messages to reporters, government officials, lawyers and others on his mailing list.

For example, Warden inserted four words into the headline of a March 3 Star story in which UA President Peter Likins apologized to a Mexican official, who was reportedly shouted down by an audience member who insisted he give his speech in English or provide an interpreter. The headline read, "Likens (sic) kisses Mexican Ass: UA apologizes to Mexican official." (Warden's edit appears in italics.)

In another Star story, sent out April 3, he attributed a made-up statement to Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva, who praised labor and civil rights leader César Chávez: "'Above all, he showed us there was a human worth in every individual,' said Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz. 'It does not matter that Chavez was a communist. Rumors that communists have murdered millions of their own people are racist, capitalist lies.'" (Warden's commentary again appears in italics.)

In early March, Warden and Teri Hayt, managing editor at the Star, got into a public e-mail spat over his "political commentary." Hayt wrote that not everyone could see the highlights or colors when viewing Warden's messages, and might therefore conclude his "comments" were part of the original stories. She threatened to sue him if he didn't stop "doctoring Star stories to libelous ends."

"PERHAPS YOU SHOULD HAND OFF THIS ISSUE FOR THE MEN TO SETTLE," Warden wrote in one of his responses to Hayt, whom he also called a "hairy-breasted Amazon." He stated that Supreme Court decisions gave him the right to continue.

Star stories featuring Warden's "political commentary" are still being e-mailed. Bobbie Jo Buel, executive editor at that newspaper, said filing a lawsuit against Warden "wouldn't be worth it."

"After our back and forth with him, we thought this was a person who doesn't have respect for copyright law and wouldn't stop even if we sued him and won," Buel said. "He got into very hateful comments. What he writes speaks for itself."

One thing is certain: Warden, who claims to have received death threats since the rally, won't let anyone speak for him. He repeatedly said over the phone that the United States is on the brink of civil war over the issue of immigration.

"I'm greatly concerned with events spinning out of control and the possibility of violence," he said. "I implore the other side to communicate with me so we can sit down and clarify these issues and avoid the commencement of bloodshed.

"I know it's in the interest of the other side to make sure that nothing happens to me, because if something does, there will be great violence in this country."

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