Santa Barbara is my hometown. I grew up in Santa Barbara, graduated from Santa Barbara High School, was married there and my children were born there. So, when the local Santa Barbara News Press received national attention for being attacked and vandalized by pro-illegal immigration activists, for using the word “Illegals”, I drove up there, on Martin Luther King Day, to support my hometown newspaper’s right of free speech.
As I drove there I reflected that never in my wildest dreams would I have believed this trip would be necessary. Why would Americans ever have to defend their right to free speech?
What had incensed the protest against the News Press was a headline that said, “Illegals Line Up for Drivers Licenses”. The protestors said “illegal” is a pejorative term and shouldn’t be used. They carried signs that said, “We aren’t illegal, the border is illegal”. They demanded the News Press stop using the word “illegal”. The News Press replied that they have used the term for decades, it is the legal term and they would continue to use it.
The rally was scheduled for 12:30pm in front of the News Press offices in the De la Guerra Plaza. The Plaza has a U shaped road going from De La Guerra Street to the News Press building and back and forms a small grassy park in the middle.
I arrived early so that I could stop and visit with friends who own a wine bar across the street from the Plaza. As we stood in the doorway of their wine bar, we saw the rally had already started so I left to join it. I brought with me signs that said, “Je Suis News Press”. I wanted to keep the message on free speech. I knew a counter protest had been planned and I was certain they would change our message to anti-immigrant/racist……and they did.
As I approached the building I could see where the graffiti had been painted over but there was still pink paint splashed on the large carved wooden doors and also on several windows. The doors are old and historic and will need to be refinished. This damage was done by people supposedly “in the shadows”.
I joined the rally. It consisted of nicely dressed people, some in business attire, carrying American flags and home made signs, mostly supporting free speech. People came and asked if they could hold the signs I brought. As soon as I joined the rally I noticed a 40ish, Latino man in a plaid shirt and baseball cap. He had a professional looking camera and a microphone and was walking back and forth in front to the crowd supposedly interviewing people, but I noticed his camera wasn’t on. It was clear he was there to agitate. As he passed me he was saying Santa Barbara was his hometown. I told him it was my hometown too. He came back and said I should understand how offensive “illegal” was. I told him I support free speech no matter who it offends. I told him I’m offended every day by people telling me what I can and can’t say.
A real reporter from Univision asked if he could interview me. He asked me why I was there. I told him I was there in defense of free speech. I said without free speech, we are not free. This is a country of laws and laws had to be applied to all equally. I told him this country had been so successful and lasted so long because we believed in the Rule of Law and that the divisiveness we are seeing is being caused by the erosion of the Rule of Law.
He asked what my sign said and what it meant. I told him it said, “Je Suis News Press” which translates to, “I am News Press”. It was in support of France’s fight for free speech caused by the Charlie Hebdo attack. I told him I didn’t like what Charlie Hepdo had to say but I supported their right to say it because free speech isn’t about protecting the speech you like, it’s about protecting the speech you don’t like.
The fake Latino reporter continued to be disruptive. Whenever someone would try to take a photo or video of the crowd, he would stand in their way. Counter protestors started arriving. At the height of the rally, I’d guess there were nearly a hundred people on each side. The counter protestors were an interesting assortment of people. The younger ones mostly yelled, “Racist” and gave us the finger. One had bright pink hair, another with yellow hair turning green at the neck. Several people had spiky mohawks, one of them a middle aged woman. They had several very expensive banners. I wondered who paid for them as no one there looked as if they could afford such an expense. A woman wearing a shirt that said, “Legalize LA” walked up and down our line with a small “point and shoot” camera video taping everyone.
A grey haired, bearded man, held up a sign that said, “God isn’t Racist”. He and a woman with him spent most of their time screaming at people and shaking their fists. Another younger bearded man carried an upside down American flag and stomped on it. Some of our group would try to talk to the counter protestors but it always ended in shouting.
Eventually, the counter protestors gathered to listen to their own speakers and then marched around the Plaza. The first time around they shouted, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, the USA has got to go”. The next time around they shouted, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, the News Press has got to go” and the last time around they said, ironically, “Love, don’t hate”.
Illegal aliens want us to “love” them as they swear at us, tell us we stole this land, vandalize property and demand rights they aren’t legally entitled to. I wonder how they think that will win them support.
I can’t really blame them for being mad, however, when we have a President who has been making a mockery of our Rule of Law and promising them amnesty for the last six years. The population of Santa Barbara is now 44% Latino. It wasn’t close to that as I was growing up. There is no question illegal immigration has contributed to the increase. And the biggest tragedy is that they are bringing with them the policies they fled.