Murrieta, California made headlines Tuesday when a crowd of angry citizens halted three buses transporting illegal immigrants. The buses were eventually turned back by the throng and returned to San Diego county where the occupants were escorted to several separate facilities. On Friday, the tension in the town began to escalate when word arrived of another load of immigrants headed their way. Five immigration protestors in Murrieta were arrested as a result of pro- and anti- dueling rallies.
The crowd of protestors on Friday numbered around 120 at its highest point. Roughly a third of those assembled were opposed to illegal immigration, with the remaining two-thirds in support of the migrants. Some individuals equipped themselves with flags and banners denigrating the opposing side. The situation quickly took a violent turn and local police were forced to create a barrier separating the two groups.
The crowd began to thin on Friday evening and there was still no sign of the incoming transport. Approximately 50 protesters—both for and against—stationed themselves near the Border Patrol outpost, where the immigrants were to be taken for processing. According to Murrieta Police Lt. Jon Flavin, the authorities came to investigate an altercation between two women in the crowd. One of the women was identified by the officers. They subsequently attempted to interview her, at which point four additional individuals decided to interfere.
There are few details available of what exactly led to the arrests of immigration protestors in Murrieta, but police commented at one point one of the protestors jumped on an officer’s back. The woman was arrested on suspicion of battery of an officer, while the other four were suspected of impeding investigations and consequently arrested. One man is accused of shoving a camera into an officer’s face.
Since facilities in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley are becoming overcrowded, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has begun transporting immigrants to processing stations located in California. The Rio Grande Valley is currently experiencing an influx of refugee children attempting to escape from gang violence in their home country.
Citizens of Murrieta feel the town is being portrayed unfairly by the media in light of last week’s events. Those in opposition to transferring immigrants to their hometown believe Murrieta’s resources could be drained by the sudden increase in population. “We’re not racist. We’re not violent. But we’re not silent anymore,” Charles Godby, a town resident, said.
Still, others are ashamed of the actions of their neighbors. According to Kelli Parish-Lucas, an ordained minister from Escondido, the citizens of Murrieta should have kept in mind Friday’s historical significance. “It’s a juxtaposition to be celebrating freedom today when we’re not treating people how we should be,” Parrish-Lucas said.
Since Tuesday’s protests, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has declined to comment on whether or not another attempt would be made to transport immigrants to the facility in Murrieta. The U.S. government has plans in place to relocate immigrants to other cities in Texas and parts of Arizona. Five immigration protestors were arrested in Murrieta on Friday, and there was not a bus to be seen.
By Samuel Williams