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In Phoenix, Deflated Anti-Immigrant Tour Involves Violent Note

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The Black American Leadership Alliance’s (BALA) We Are America tour — originally intended by organizers to be a nationwide series of demonstrations against immigration reform — went out with a whimper in Phoenix, Arizona last weekend.

Even with a line-up featuring disgraced former Arizona State Senator and SB 1070 chief sponsor Russell Pearce, the rally at the Arizona Capitol Building attracted only about 75 participants. Event organizers were even forced to begin the rally 20 minutes late so that more people would hopefully show up and save them a little face:

Unfortunately for BALA, the huge crowds failed to materialize that morning. Even headliner Pearce noted the absence of bodies:

The Arizona rally also included a violent episode, when a group of attendees began shoving, harassing, and verbally-abusing Dennis Gilman, a local independent videographer attempting to film the event.  As Stephen Lemons of the Phoenix New Times wrote:

these goons essentially disrupted their own event…one of their speakers, Republican congresswoman-wannabe Gabriela Saucedo Mercer, even intervened at one point on Gilman’s behalf.

“Excuse me,” she says, “as a United States citizen, this man has a right to be here.”

Rally attendees, however, ignored her and instead blocked Gilman’s camera with an American flag (ironic) while telling him he “wasn’t welcome here” (basically their message to immigrants that day).  The man was eventually led away by three policemen–off of public property–after one of the attendees waved a nightstick and yelled “commie!” at him.

You can watch the video of the altercation below.  It’s scary stuff.  Apparently pro-reform groups can hold thousands of events across the country peacefully, but the opposition can’t get a few dozen people together without physically attacking an attendee.  As Lemons wrote: “Having a permit does not give you license to harass and assault someone.”

The rally was hosted by BALA, a front group for the anti-immigrant Tanton network, and Remember 1986, a group whose founder Rusty Childress has troubling links to neo-Nazis.  Speakers included Pearce, Saucedo Mercer (whose past comments about immigrants were so incendiary, even Governor Jan Brewer pulled the plug on a joint appearance with her last year), and Andrew Thomas (the Joe Arpaio sidekick who was disbarred for ethical violations).

The BALA “We Are America Tour” originally had nine events scheduled for September 8th all across the country.  But a presumed lack of interest resulted in events mysteriously disappearing from the group’s tour roster.  Five of those nine events were cancelled shortly after they were announced, and a sixth (in Texas) was axed just days before the big weekend.

Looks like that’s what happens when you take turnout tips from Steve King instead of pro-immigration groups.