Trial Begins for Faith Leaders Arrested During Border Protest - NBC 7 San Diego

Trial Begins for Faith Leaders Arrested During Border Protest

On Dec. 10, 2019, more than 400 people protested near the International Friendship Park at the border in support of migrants' rights

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    A small crowd gathered outside a downtown courtroom Monday in support of four protesters who were arrested during a rally at the border in support of migrants' rights.

    Wendy Barranco, Brittany DeBarros, Jorge Bautista, and Rae Abileah were among 30 people arrested near the International Friendship Park in Imperial Beach as more than 400 people, led by faith leaders from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and Indigenous communities, protested on Human Rights Day on Dec. 10, 2018.

    The protesters pleaded not guilty to charges of noncompliance with lawful orders during a demonstration.

    The American Friends Service Committee said the rally was to call "the U.S. to respect the human right to migrate, end the militarization of border communities, and end the detention and deportation of migrants." 

    "Today, as families are ripped apart under the guise of justice, as bombs are dropped under the guise of safety, we have decided that the government should have to make its case for why we are the guilty ones," DeBarros said.

    After words from various speakers, the large crowd started a procession towards the San Diego-Tijuana border. Organizers said the march was an act of solidarity with the thousands of Central American migrants who live in crowded shelters after traveling thousands of miles towards the U.S.-Mexico border.

    Aerial view of pro-migrants activists demonstrating against US migration policies near the US-Mexico border fence at Imperial beach in San Diego county, US, as seen from Playas de Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico, on December 10, 2018.
    Photo credit: GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP/Getty Images

    As the group neared the border, U.S. Border Patrol Agents stopped them -- a move that the arestees' attorney said was in violation of their First Amendment rights.

    "Our clients were exercising their first amendment right to assemble and speak out against injustice, and those injustices have only continued," said attorney Coleen Cusack.

    Cusack, alongside attorneys Geneviéve L. Jones-Wright, Thomas Matthews, and Alex Landon, represent the four protesters on trial.

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    Different faith and community leaders, including DeBarros, spoke during the gathering outside the downtown courtroom Monday afternoon.

    Barranco and DeBarros are veterans with the activist organization About Face: Veterans Against the War. Bautista is an associate minister of the Congregational Church of San Mateo United Church of Christ. Abileah is a Jewish clergy and member of American Friends Service Committee, a social justice organization.

    CBP commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan said in a press release that the increase in migrants seeking asylum "is straining border security, immigration enforcement and courts, and other federal resources" and he sees it as one of the "vulnerabilities in our immigration system” that Congress needs to address.