by David Safier
The people protesting against immigrant children being housed in the Oracle area was 4 miles down the road. I spent 3 hours as part of the bienvenidos group welcoming the children to stay and be cared for until the next step of their journey. The buses didn't show, so the day ended as a standoff.
Paul Ingram of the Tucson Sentinel spent time with both groups. By his count, there were about 75 protesters and 50 welcomers. My estimate of our group was closer to 75, but I imagine Ingram's estimates are consistent for both groups, so let's use his numbers.
The protest group was fueled by anger and xenophobia. Its anti-immigrant fires were stoked by Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu's rhetoric, and they had since Thursday to rally their troops. The welcomers began organizing the afternoon before when people got wind of the planned protest. I didn't learn the details, when and where our demonstration would be held, until 9pm the night before. Even with their anger at the children and a three day head start, they could only come up with a few more bodies than the group brought together at the last minute hoping to counter the protesters' hate and welcome the children.
Our group had a mariachi band drive out to Oracle to play for us. Rumor has it the protesters had Porta Potties. I'll leave it to readers to decide the relative value of the perks for both groups.
Speaking-Of-Rumors Note: The only reason the anti-immigrant protest happened and the welcomers turned out as a counter demonstration was because Sheriff Babeu told people he heard the children were coming to the Sycamore Canyon Academy outside of Oracle. He hasn't revealed his source. The question is, did he have a genuine tip the children were coming, or did he create the event out of whole cloth to give himself a little earned media?
More photos below.