MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - An Alabama representative says he wants to help post bond for the 13 protesters who were arrested after holding a sit-in in a Montgomery street Tuesday. Rep. Alvin Holmes (D-Montgomery) says he believes the bonds will approximately $500, but that figure was unconfirmed. He says he may call a news conference to discuss the state's immigration law as well.
The protest, involving a small group of self-professed undocumented immigrants, came to a peaceful end near the Alabama State House complex following a nearly two hour protest of the state's new immigration law Tuesday afternoon.
The group, calling itself the Alabama Youth Collective, chanted "no courage, no change", "undocumented, unafraid" and "stop the hate" as they stepped up their protests by sitting down in the street at the corner of South Union and Washington Street near the State House.
A media advisory released by the group shortly before the protest began listed the names, ages and cities of each person involved. While WSFA 12 News is not publishing the names because they can't be verified, the group is made up of men and women ranging in age from 18 to 55. None of the group's members who were to be at the State House were listed as living in Alabama. They were said to be from California, Oregon, Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
"What happens to one of us affects all of us regardless of where we live" said Alma Diaz, an undocumented immigrant who arrived in the U.S. at the age of 22. Now 30 Alma said she was willing to fighting for her community at the risk of being deported. "What has hiding in the shadows gotten us?," she said. "We must fight back; it is the only way to end the pain we see in our communities."
The group, numbering approximately a dozen but supported by about 100 others planned the act of civil disobedience while trying to draw similarities to the Greensboro sit-ins of the 1960s. In that sit-in, four black students in North Carolina sat at a white-only lunch counter to protest racial injustice.
The Alabama Youth Collective says it's "an undocumented youth-led organization working to better the lives of immigrants in the state of Alabama." The group says it's committed to nonviolence.
City of Montgomery Police Chief Kevin Murphy said an organized law enforcement presence including the city, State Capitol Police and Dept. of Homeland Security for Alabama were on scene. Protesters were ordered in both English and Spanish to clear the right-of-way within 10 minutes. After the protesters refused the order, Murphy said each was taken into custody for disorderly conduct.
Murphy stressed that the group was taken into custody for disorderly conduct, not for violation of the state's immigration law.
"It's a city street," Murphy said. "They're going to the city jail under the charge of disorderly conduct. As with any arrest, a determination is made on identity, and if any of these individuals are found to be in the state, in the country illegally we will comply with the state law regarding immigration."
It took less than two minutes to remove the individuals from the scene and to pull the makeshift blanket they were sitting on from the roadway.
Two additional protesters remained inside the State House with arms locked around each other in solidarity. They said they wanted to speak with state senator Scott Beason (R-Gardendale) who sponsored the Senate version of the state's immigration law, but authorities took the two men into custody around 5:15pm. The charges against them are not immediately known.
Federal courts have blocked parts of the Republican-backed law from taking effect, but both supporters and critics still call it the nation's toughest state law against illegal immigration.
The Obama administration opposes the law, which is calls an overreach by the state.