Saturday, July 31, 2010

UUs Protest Arizona Immigration Law: News from Arizona & Kansas City

On July 29, Arizona’s new anti-immigration law (SB 1070) went into effect. The previous evening, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton issued an injunction preventing the implementation of some parts of the law. On July 29 protesters took to the streets in Phoenix to demonstrate against the law. Their numbers were bolstered by hundreds of Unitarian Universalists wearing bright goldenrod Standing on the Side of Love T-shirts.

Many of the protesters engaged in civil disobedience aimed at disrupting the efforts of law enforcement officials to escalate their immigration raids. One report said that there were 73 arrests for civil disobedience on 7/29. Of those 73, twenty-six were Unitarian Universalists. I am so proud of my fellow co-religionists for practicing their values and witnessing for justice in Arizona.

I am especially proud of the fact that I know many of those arrested. They include:
Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, a classmate of mine at Harvard Divinity School who serves one of our congregations in Phoenix. Susan is a shining example of courage and grace in her witness for justice.

Rev. Ian White Maher, another classmate of mine at HDS and a man who understands racism at a level that is deeper than almost anyone I’ve ever met.

Rev. Peter Morales, President of the UUA.

Rita Butterfield, the wife of Rev. Chris Bell, also a classmate of mine at HDS.

Leslie Mills and Shawna Foster, both students at the 2009 Midwest Leadership School.
There is a ton of information available at the Standing on the Side of Love web-site as well as lots of photos and videos available. If you haven’t already done so, I would recommend reading the op-ed piece by Peter Morales that appeared on the Washington Post web-site.


I received invitations to two local events in response to SB 1070 in Arizona. One invitation was to attend an interfaith prayer vigil at a United Methodist church in Overland Park. The other invitation was to join a group working for immigrant justice at the Kansas City Royals game. I chose the Royals game. Two dozen of us gathered an hour before the game. We carried signs and distributed literature about SB 1070 and called on baseball fans to pressure Major League Baseball to move the 2011 All Star game out of Arizona. Some of us stood outside the gates. Some of us walked through the parking lot and engaged groups of tailgaters. (If you are interested in putting pressure on MLB to move the All Star game, you can text the word “Allstar” to 3-0-6-4-4.)

At the game I was joined by a number of immigration attorneys and advocates for immigrant rights. Although there were only two dozen of us, we were a diverse group. Our group included a man who spent 23 years trying to resolve his immigration status, college students who have been working in support of the Dream Act, and a number of children including an 8 year old boy whose father was deported six years ago.

For the occasion I made a large sign. On one side it read, “All Star Game Out of Arizona!” On the other side, it asked provocatively, “What Would Jackie Robinson Do?” That latter sign attracted a lot of attention. And, it made for an excellent talking point. Jackie Robinson may be the most beloved baseball player of all time, his life a symbol of fairness and inclusivity. Jackie Robinson calls forth our best selves, a vision of brotherhood and sisterhood. History has been kind to those who supported and encouraged him and unkind to those who put barriers in front of him. If baseball is the American pastime, then Jackie Robinson represents a strand of the American spirit.

Here in Kansas City, closer Joakim Soria, arguably the Royal’s best player, has stated that he would consider boycotting next year’s All Star game. This provided another powerful talking point. Not all of the fans agreed with our signs—and several made it a point to tell us they didn’t—but it was a good experience to talk to baseball fans about what the sport and what our country ought to stand for.