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Philadelphia: Pro-Immigration Rally Overwhelms, Drowns Out Tea Party Protest

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Today and tomorrow, anti-immigrant groups are trying to hold a series of protests against children fleeing violence.  In Michigan, the anti-immigrant protesters screamed at supporters of immigration reform, telling an African-American woman to “go home, welfare.”  In Philadelphia, Tea Partiers seemed similarly unhinged as they expressed fear that the government would target missiles at their homes and that the children on the border are secretly jihadists — while pro-immigration reform attendees turned out in force to bring a message of love and celebration.  Read Josh Kruger’s full piece in PhillyNow below:

Today, a planned anti-immigration rally was overwhelmed and drowned out by a pro-immigration rally adjacent to Independence Hall outside the Mexican Consulate in Philadelphia.

The Independence Hall Tea Party planned on demonstrating against what they call “illegal immigration” as part of a nationwide protest taking place in several cities. About a dozen anti-immigration activists showed up in various forms of costume carrying signs.

One of them had his face covered with a stars and stripes bandana, refusing to give his name to Philly Now, sayingthat since he was protesting against immigration, he feared that being identified would lead to a government reprisal. In particular, the anti-immigration protestor said he feared that “the government” would retaliate against him with an IRS audit or, worse, violence by way of a missile targeted at his home.

Unlike the small number of anti-immigration protestors, scores of pro-immigration protestors took a more celebratory, positive tone. “We were aware that some of these actions by anti-immigrants were happening,” says Erika Almiron to Philly Now, “and rather than bring hate to a place that’s already filled with hate, we would show them what love is about.”

Almiron is Executive Director of Juntos. She describes the organization as a “Latino immigrant community organization” fighting for “our human rights.” As she spoke, at least fifty pro-immigration protestors stood nearby, many holding signs. Various ethnicities and political beliefs were in the pro-immigration bloc; the small number of Tea Party protestors were all older white people.

When asked whether or not undocumented immigrants in the United States were criminals as the Tea Party demonstrators repeatedly, and angrily, tried to communicate, Almiron was candid. “I think that any unjust law is not a law at all,” she declared. “People need to survive and people should honor their human rights. For whatever reason that people come here, they’re human beings and we should respect that.”

Emceeing the impromptu pro-immigration rally was social justice activist Rabbi Linda Holtzman. “Remember that we are a country built by immigrants,” Holtzman declared into a bullhorn. After each of her statements, a young man repeated her words in Spanish. “Immigrants from all lands are our greatest strength.”

She continued: “Remember that are a country that values all of its people, whatever their citizenship status, whatever papers they may possess.” Near Holtzman, many Latino children held signs in support of immigrants. “Remember that we never mistreat a child because of where he was born,” she affirmed.

After Holtzman’s speech, a young Latino boy began strumming a guitar and the crowd began to softly sing. “We are standing by the water, we shall not be moved.” The boy continued to strum his guitar and the pro-immigration protestors switched to singing in Spanish en masse, joyfully singing, “No, no nos moverán!”

The anti-immigration protestors, despite their comparatively very small number, were not moved, either.

“I’m not here protesting,” explained Tea Party protestor Christopher R. Collopy. “I’m here promoting freedom.” Collopy drove over an hour to attend the Tea Party component of the demonstration. He was wearing an Uncle Sam style top hat and a shirt that had the word “Jihad” crossed out on it. Collopy says that what’s going on right now immigration-wise in America is actually a jihad.

“Jihad is not freedom. There are terrorists coming across our southern border and our northern border…and somebody” — he highlighted that last word in his speech — “wants open borders and open markets. They don’t care about our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, or our Declaration of Independence.”

He couldn’t identify who he meant by “somebody” or “they.”

Collopy described himself as against big government. He is on Social Security disability and says that he prefers to get his news from the Internet, saying the mainstream television media is biased against truth.

The truth, as Aine Fox sees it, is something the Tea Party isn’t disclosing, though. Fox is an immigrant from Belfast, Ireland, working as a behavioral therapist and living in Ardmore. She journeyed to Center City to show solidarity with the pro-immigration protestors.

“As an immigrant,” Fox paused, “and as a white immigrant, I don’t get any hassle [by anti-immigration people].” Fox chuckled, her hair a brownish red and curly, freckles on her cheeks .“And as a very white, pale Irish person, my immigration doesn’t seem to upset anyone. But, if I was of a darker skin color, I might not be so welcome, which is what I’m getting from the anti-immigration protest.”

After all, Fox insists that opposition to open borders and immigration is race-based.

“When I asked [the Tea Partiers] politely straight up if they were comfortable with my migration status, they didn’t have anything to say,” Fox said.