by Conner Martinez
On Monday, a peaceful demonstration of over 400 people led by faith leaders from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and indigenous communities took place at the U.S.-Mexico border separating San Diego and Tijuana. The event was held in solidarity with migrants facing violent anti-immigrant rhetoric and persecution from the U.S. government, and an increasingly militarized U.S. border.
“I’m here to declare that every person has inherent worth and dignity,” said Joyce Ajlouny, general secretary for the American Friends Service Committee. Held on International Human Rights Day, the demonstrations kicked off a week-long national call for actions called Love Knows No Borders: A moral call for migrant justice.
U.S. authorities arrested 32 people during the demonstration, many of whom were religious leaders from various faiths. In multiple instances, border guards used force to intimidate demonstrators, pushing some elderly clergy members into the sand and water.
“These people have a right to asylum; it is in the document that we supposedly celebrate today,” said Omar Suleiman, an Islamic scholar who is also the Founder and President of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research. “We keep being told that we need to make a choice between violence and decency. That we have to make a choice between upholding dignity or upholding the power structures that continue to oppress people here and all around the world while touting this title of ‘the freest nation in the world,’” Suleiman continued.
Marching through Border Field State Park, demonstrators sang “We Shall Not Be Moved” and “Somebody’s been hurting migrants and it’s gone on far too long, and we won’t be silent anymore!” While navigating the muddy park, religious leaders also took time to pray.
When the group reached the beach leading up to the border wall, a moment of silence was taken, and the names of those who died on their migrant journeys and those killed by border patrol were said aloud.
When demonstrators reached the border wall, a portion of the group led mostly by clergy members approached the wall. Many of them began to pray as they confronted border guards in riot gear. Behind them, and away from the highly militarized wall, stood the bulk of demonstrators.
“We call on you to accomplish your task without violence,” one border guard stated. “We’re all Americans. We support your right to demonstrate.” Moments after that statement, border guards formed a human wall and began pushing demonstrators back. Some demonstrators interlocked arms, while others dropped to their knees and prayed. Demonstrators away from the wall continued to sing and pray
Across the border on the Tijuana side, music could be heard playing as women, men, and children waved to demonstrators on the U.S. side.
“You are being lawfully ordered to step behind the caution tape. You are in direct violation of federal regulations,” said one border guard with a megaphone before they began to arrest demonstrators standing near the border wall.
In the beginning of the demonstration, Executive Minister of Justice and Local Ministries for the United Church of Christ, Traci Blackmon stated, “When our laws are co-opted for greed and political gain; when such laws are used as weapons of disenfranchisement against black and brown families; when such laws are executed inhumanely, then people of Faith are compelled to resist in the interest of preserving our humanity.” This statement was made as onlookers in both the U.S. and Mexico watched clergy members be put face down in the sand and arrested.
The week of actions, Love Knows No Borders: A moral call for migrant justice, was organized by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), and is joined by other organizations such as New Poor People’s Campaign, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Showing Up for Racial Justice, Detention Watch Network, the United Methodist Church, Jewish Voice for Peace, the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, Church World Service, and many others.
For upcoming Love Knows No Borders events, click here: https://migrantjustice.afsc.org/events