“If a couple of people wander in two at a time over the course of about seven minutes we can get everyone inside without attracting too much attention,” said Jeff Winder of The People United to the 20 or so protesters drawn around him at the backside of the Omni Hotel.
Food Not Bombs helped organize the peaceful protest stunt against the federal border patrol agents.
On the other side of the hotel, near the entrance, two federal agents stood beside an FM 101.9 display while a nearby van blared wan pop. The agents were here to recruit federal guards in an effort to recruit 6,000 nationwide to patrol the U.S.-Mexican border. You could also sign up to win UVA basketball tickets, courtesy of the radio station. I grabbed a free pen that said “U.S. Customs” on its side.
Also there were Winder and his crew, there to disrupt the recruiting event in order to combat stereotypes about immigrants and the idea that we need more border agents. “At some point when we think we have critical mass back there, then we can have a couple other people come in—” explained Sue Frankel-Streit, another People United rep, pausing to dig through a plastic bag before pulling out a yellow hat, “—as the border patrol and start asking everyone for their ID and, upon not getting an indigenous [person]’s ID, arrest all of our own people for not being legal. Then cart them through the front and out the Omni.”
Moments later, Winder stood inside talking to a federal agent as two other protestors sidled by the radio display, pausing briefly to look around, before dipping in to take their place behind their fearless leader. Eventually, they would be subjected to an informational video about the border patrol and take part in the mock arrest. According to The Daily Progress, it sparked no actual arrests. Agents simply asked them to leave and they complied. This was a peaceful protest after all. Even a baby, astride its mother in a papoose, was spotted taking part.
Once everyone else had moved inside, two stayed back beside the People United display on the other side of the Omni. “We’re watching the stuff,” a bundled-up girl explained, pointing to the table that bore handouts and the detritus of an earlier veggie feast. They would not be going in, the other added, pouring some tea into his cup. I showed him my free pen as three teenage girls walked by with yellow 101.9 T-shirts. He stared and then spoke, “I don’t even understand what this thing is.”
C-VILLE welcomes news tips from readers. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.