Story for The UpTake by Sheila Regan/Video by Bill Sorem
Ten protesters were arrested Monday as they blocked Burnsville Parkway in front of U.S. Representative John Kline’s office while about 100 supporters watched their act of civil disobedience. Organized by La Asamblea de Derechos Civiles (Assembly of Civil Rights), a statewide, faith-based non-profit organization, the action was planned in an effort to pressure the Republican Congressman to support immigration reform, as well as to call on House Speaker John Boehner to bring HR-15, the bill that has already passed in the Senate and includes a path to citizenship, to the House Floor.
“He needs to listen to the community,” said Asamblea co-founder Antonia Alvarez, who brought her young children to the action, including eight-year old Melina, who delivered a personal message to the congressman. “Will you please ask Congressman Kline to pass immigration reform with a path to citizenship,” the young girl asked Kline’s receptionist.
Tuesday’s action involved about a dozen people entering the building where Kline has his office, and requesting to speak with him. Staff in the office said Kline was unavailable, but told the group they could leave their names and the Congressman would respond to them. The protest was part of a larger day of civil disobedience in cities around the country.
Pablo Tapia, another co-founder of the group, told the receptionist that it wasn’t the first time they were requesting a meeting with Kline. “We have delivered letters, we have had people here to request a meeting, but we haven’t had any answers,” he said. “The only thing we’ve had as an answer is police chasing us out. So we’re coming back, we still want to talk to the Congressman about immigration reform with a path to citizenship.”
Deacon Carl Valdez, from Minneapolis’ Church of the Incarnation/Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, also spoke in the office, delivering a letter from the group asking Kline, a conservative Republican, to “take leadership on the immigration reform bill” and for Kline to ask Boehner to move the bill forward. “It is time to act to keep our families together and it is time to pass comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship NOW,” The letter stated.
Deacon Valdez also read a passage from Psalms 71: “In you Lord I take refuge,” he read. “Let me never be put to shame. In your justice, rescue me, free me; pay heed to me and save me. Be a rock where I can take refuge, a mighty stronghold to save me; for you are my rock, my stronghold.”
Kline’s office staff declined to say whether the congressman’s position has changed on immigration. Members of Asamblea left their contact information and said a short prayer in Spanish before leaving the office. Kline’s Communication’s Director declined to provide a comment for The Uptake on the incident, saying if media wants a statement, they need to make an appointment ahead of time. (Editor’s note: Fiddle-dee-dee.)
After leaving Kline’s office, the small group of representatives re-joined the larger group of protesters outside, and everyone, with the assistance of volunteer patrols provided by Communities United for Police Brutality, blocked off Burnsville Parkway.
Within minutes, police arrived and all but 10 of the protesters walked back onto the sidewalk overlooking the street.
KEEP READING TO SEE WHY THE PROTESTERS WANTED TO BE ARRESTED
The 10 protesters blocking the street, a mix of elders from the faith community, activists and young Latino citizens, waited peacefully, knowing they would be arrested. Among them was Deacon Valdez, who has been a minister in the community for the past 27 years.
“I’m doing this not because I think Kline will change his mind, though that is the hope,” Valdez said in a pre-arrest interview. “My main objective is to show some compassion. Many things I’ve witnessed over the past 27 years — people dying, people suffering on the job, not getting a job, or a low paying one, not being respected just because they have a brown face and don’t have documents…I’m doing this out of solidarity.” Valdez said he had never been arrested before, and that he was anxious, but not afraid. “I’m looking forward to it in a way,” he said.
Joining Valdez were activists as well as parishioners from Living Table Church of Christ like Ann King, a senior citizen who said she never was arrested during the 1960s but was prepared to now. A few high school students were also among the arrested.
Roberta Malles, a transgender woman, was also among them. Malles said she’s concerned that with the distraction of the federal shutdown, the work that the Senate has done to push immigration reform will disappear. “Now is the time,” she said.
Through intermediary Rachel E.B. Lang, an attorney, the police gave the protesters remaining in the street the opportunity to not be arrested if the moved off of the street, but they declined. All ten were arrested, amongst cheering and tears from the crowd on the sidewalk, and taken to the Burnsville City jail. Their court date is set for November 27th, according to Asemblea organizer Cirien Saadeh.
Like a number of other protesters, Saadeh was in tears at the end of the action.
“I’m glad everyone was safe,” she said.