Image Via Elliott Gabriel
The build up to yesterdays protest took an unexpected turn as defenders of the News-Press emerged from a nativist "anti-immigrant" group, We the People Rising. There contingent travelled from all over Southern California and have ties to the San Diego based Minutemen Project. An organization the Southern Poverty Law Center once described as filled with bigots and connected to national hate groups.
As the LA Times succinctly described:
"But the local newspaper's decision to call such immigrants "illegals" has turned idyllic Santa Barbara into an unlikely flashpoint in the nation's immigration battles. Immigrants flock to DMV offices to seek driver's licenses The News-Press ran the headline "Illegals Line Up for Driver's Licenses" on Jan. 3, prompting protests and a message painted in red on the wall of the newspaper's offices. The paper used the term again last Friday in another front page story: "Driving Legal Opens Door to Illegals' Past." News-Press officials have stuck by their choice of language, saying that describing someone living in the country illegally as an "illegal" is accurate, and compared the vandalism on their offices to the deadly attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris."
The protests are in response to the January 3rd headline:
We posted the image in early January and it quickly went viral. The story was covered by Cosmopolitan, Latina Maganize, Latino Rebels, LA Times, LAist, among others we may not be aware of. As a response to the unprecedented, (at least for this humble website) social media response we put together a petition that has over 6,000 signers. Absorbing the outcry a grassroots Santa Barbara organization PODER quickly and assertively took up the cause and set up a series of protests and called for a boycott against the News-Press.
As PODER protesters chanted "Undocumented and Unafraid", and "Love not Hate" the nativists responded in broken Spanish "que?.. soy americano"and where found to be flipping off latino youth yelling at them saying, "Stupid Little kids", "we gave you life" and pointed indiscriminately asking "who is illegal?". It is somewhat hard to tell but the video below shows several of the News-Press supporters flipping off the youth.
PODER protester Anthony N. Bianca Rodriguez in his own word, "Honestly, I was truly blown away, I was called a m**** F**** wetback, a piece of S***, Ignorant idiot, a waste of space, a poor reason and so on .....then one of them asked me if my veins where filled with ice.... My reply" No but yours are" then I said" I'll be praying for you". That's when he said " go back to Mexico!"
One News-Press defender, a middle aged African-American male was particularly aggressive and referred to the death of his son by the hands of an undocumented individual as the reason for his hostile posture. While I don't know the News-Press defender I certainly empathize with his pain having lost many people close to me throughout my life along with my parents in my 20s. To him I really want to say, I feel your brother, I know some of what you are feeling. Perhaps spending time with this groups of nativist haters is not the best place to process your grief. I, we, did not kill your son and feel for you. Instead lets sit and talk about our shared pain and a vision for something better.
So what are the ties between Gilchrist and the News-Press?
Jim Gilchrist President of the far right Minutemen Project made comments suggesting a close relationship to the New-Press along with other absurb statements: "The Santa Barbara News-Press will set a long overdue precedent of defying politically correct speech, which in itself is “censorship.” For decades the U.S. media has cowered to intimidation from sinister reactionaries who would have all of us goose-stepping at their whim. Yes, America, fascism does come from the extremist elements of either side of an argument, especially from the anti-free speech Left."
The co publisher of the News-Press Arthur von Wiesenberger, thanked Gilchirst and claimed that they report in an unbiased manner. Furthermore arguing that, "The protesters have threatened to return later this month if the paper does not issue a retraction — something we will never do. We will not give in to the thugs who are attempting to use political correctness as a tool of censorship and a weapon to shut down this newspaper."
After having observed the hateful connections that the News-Press has we believe its hard for them to keep defending themselves as an unbiased media outlet ruthlessly attacked by "thugs". Furthermore, the News-Press and their defenders own characterization as freedom fighters and embracing Martin Luther King Jr's legacy is laughable. We talk about this in general in our post "Right Wing #fails on MLK Jr day". The PODER protestors were a disciplined group constantly reminding folks not to respond to the aggravation of the nativist group. They were families, young folks, old folks, celebrating their own community. They even danced together in ceremony under the instruction of Aztec Dancers in ceremony. News-Press we ask this simple question; What are you so afraid of? The Latino community is a significant part of the fabric of Santa Barbara and the Central Coast. Its time you pull away from your nativist supporters. Its time you retract your use of the term "illegal" and furthermore distance yourself from Gilchrist and other nativist out of town forces and be a responsible member of the community.
-Filiberto Nolasco Gomez
Video Footage courtesy of Jesus Aguilar Moreno