Local leaders, community members and immigration activists are criticizing the Murrieta police for not doing more to prevent Tuesday’s protest that blocked a caravan of undocumented women children.
“I don’t think a lot of this outrage is racially motivated. I know it is,” activist Enrique Morones said. “There’s a double standard in play here and there’s no doubt about it.”
He witnessed the confrontation and has called for an investigation into the Murrieta Police Department to determine why more wasn’t done to keep the road clear for the caravan of buses.
In response to the criticism, Murrieta Mayor Alan Long said the police achieved what they were brought in to do.
"Their No. 1 priority was to keep everyone safe.. People on the buses safe.. Protesters on both sides of this issue safe and that's exactly what they did," he said.
While the protests did get heated, the mayor said those involved did not break any laws.
"They allowed people to exercise their constitutional rights," he said.
Long said he felt compassion for the families escaping violence and poverty in Central America, but he's also frustrated by the lack of guidance from federal authorities.
"And now we feel dumped on and we are utilizing our resources with no financial help," he said. "In fact, the Department of Homeland Security to date has not talked to us about this."
On Friday, more buses carrying immigrants are expected to arrive. Asked whether he thinks the same scenario will take place then, Long said: "I would anticipate if everyone remained peaceful and they were exercising their constitutional rights and everyone remained safe. You would see the same outcome."
Still, tensions continued to sizzle Wednesday.
Morones organized other community members and human rights activists at a news conference Wednesday to denounce the treatment of those nearly 140 women and children who were transported to San Diego from the U.S.-Mexico border region in Texas.
Their transfer to California was the first of many scheduled over the next several weeks as the federal government tries to handle an overflow of unaccompanied minors and families with small children that have crossed into the U.S. in recent weeks.
In Murrieta, residents stood in the street waving flags and chanting anti-immigration slogans as a caravan of three buses approached the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol facility to begin the process of pre-screening the children and their mothers.
“They simply want to live and that’s how they’re greeted with pounding on the buses and blocking the buses,” Morones said.
Tuesday’s gathering was an unlawful gathering, a spokesperson for the Murrieta Planning Department told NBC 7.
No permit was filed at the department or the Murrieta Police Department for the public protest outside the facility.
Speaker of the Assembly Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) called the protest in Murrieta “shameful.”
“This is a complex problem with many parts to resolve, but we must not forget that there are real human beings at the center of it,” she said in a written statement.
Everard Meade, Director of the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego, suggested those planning to protest future immigrant transfers should consider their actions from the perspective of the children.
“Let’s say it’s an 11-year-old kid who’s inside of there or a mother who is trying to shield her children. What that must have been like for them to go through that circus,” Meade said.
Victor Torres, an attorney who works with La Raza, suggested members of the public get educated on the issues from more sources than bumper stickers or talk radio.
“What are the people of Escondido and Murrieta afraid of? Nine year olds? I don’t think so,” Torres asked. “They are afraid of what they don’t know.”
Andy Carey, Executive Director of the U.S.-Mexico Philanthropy Partnership agrees that fear of the unknown may be fueling the passion seen in Murrieta.
“It’s unfortunate that ignorance, bigotry, racism still persists in 2014,” Carey said.
“Some people may be angry but it’s important to place that anger in its right place,” Carey said. “In directing it towards children is beyond anything of human decency.”
He said his organization is looking into how they can help create a more productive way for both sides to have a dialogue about the issues.