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Immigration Faceoff

August 9, 2006
By TINA A. BROWN, Courant Staff Writer

The momentum of one group of immigration demonstrators was picking up Tuesday in a park at Capitol Avenue and Broad Street in Hartford when a trio of protesters from the other side showed up carrying "Save the American Worker" posters.

Barbara Keidel of Watertown, Tom Manuel of Bethel and Pat Basile of Danbury immediately stood out among the crowd of about 60 people, who were carrying placards with slogans such as "No Human Being is Illegal" and "Queers Say No to Border Goons."

"Bigots go home," 24-year-old James Fiorentino, a student from Northampton, Mass., shouted at the new arrivals.

"We're not bigots," Keidel responded. "I have a right to speak. Nobody has the right to call me names. Where is that young man? Show your face."

"Hey, hey, ho, ho, racists and bigots have got to go. Go home," the group responded in unison.

"I am home," replied Manuel.

The two sides of the ongoing national debate over immigration faced off around the state Capitol Tuesday.

The 21st Century Paul Revere Riders, a group opposed to illegal immigration and in favor of stiffer laws and tougher enforcement, has been traveling around the country on motorcycles this summer. They stopped in Hartford Tuesday.

They were met by a group of counter-protesters, which included representatives from 16 organizations. When Manuel, Basile and Keidel realized that the anti-illegal immigration group they came to support was rallying at the Capitol, they headed that way.

At the Capitol, the members of the riders, four men and women who traveled here via motorcycle, and their 15 supporters, expressed gratitude to the Capitol police for keeping the two groups apart.

"We expected to stand quietly," Keidel said. "We weren't expecting verbal abuse."

Earlier Tuesday at a rally in Providence, Jack Thuotte of Danielson said, counter-demonstrators also shouted down the 21st Century Paul Revere Riders and their supporters.

"It was pretty radical. They'd get right up to you with a bullhorn yelling `Racist,'" he said. "That's one thing I'm not. That's one of the reasons I followed them here."

The riders support using the National Guard to patrol the U.S. borders. Forrest "Frosty" Wooldridge, one of the organizers and riders, warned that America will be subject to more terrorist attacks, diseases and overwhelmed education, medical and prison systems if illegal immigration isn't stalled.

Cindy Roddenberry of South Carolina, one of the motorcyclists who had traveled from Denver to Connecticut, said the strategy of the counter-demonstrators won't stop the anti-illegal immigration movement.

A nurse by profession, Roddenberry said that illegal immigrants are crippling the country's health care system, and illegal immigrants are spreading diseases. "We need to slow [illegal immigration] down," and "enforce the laws we have. ... I'm not a racist. The Paul Revere riders are for legal immigration."

But the counter-protesters said Roddenberry and those like her misstate the facts about immigration.

"They say we are here to take their jobs; that's not true," said Juan Hernandez, a janitor from Manchester.

Mary Sanders of Hartford said she came to protest the anti-immigration rally because "all of our parents were immigrants. Only the African Americans' community can say they came here against their will. All we ask for is fair treatment for all people."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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