Netroots Nation, the annual gathering of progressive bloggers and online activists, just wrapped up in Las Vegas. During four days of panel discussions, caucuses and speeches, 2,000 participants hashed out strategies to address the numerous challenges facing our nation. This year, due in part to national events as well as the support of Netroots founder Markos Moulitsas, immigrant rights got prominent billing.
This was my second Netroots and I attended in the hope of building stronger alliances with folks who might not think of immigration as their issue. I believe that just as African-Americans lead the Civil Rights Movement to build a nation that lived up to the ideals of all Americans, immigrants are leading a movement that concerns all of us in the United States and we, as citizens, should support them in this struggle.
With the recent events in Arizona, my colleagues and I wanted to enlist others in opposing SB1070, the new "Papers Please" immigration law, especially since the law is set to go into effect on July 29. With the support of conference organizers, we decided to do something right before the Civil Rights in the Modern Era luncheon plenary. We chose to model the action on a video made by a friend of mine in Los Angeles, Josh Busch. Set on the Santa Monica Promenade, the video "Immigration Check Point" has been a truly viral hit.
About ten of us, including several undocumented DREAM students, wore navy blue shirts and affixed paper ICE badges and patches to our hats and shirts with masking tape. Stating that we were enforcing a new law in "Native American lands", we stopped anyone who looked "European" and let all others pass without hindrance. Many people were flustered by the confrontation but most everyone got the joke.
If our action offended anyone and resulted in thirty seconds of frustration, that was the point. As Americans, we should all be offended by actual laws like Arizona's SB1070 that harass and profile communities 24 hours a day. It wasn't about preventing Netroots participants from getting their lunch. Profiling and injustice is what we wanted folks to think about.
This week, we're calling on everyone to join national actions to oppose this law. Find out more at Alto Arizona.
Will Coley is the founder of Aquifer Media,which assists nonprofit organizations, foundations and community groups create and utilize effective storytelling and compelling social media content in their community-building, advocacy and leadership development.