About 50 predominantly Latino protesters from Los Angeles staged a peaceful demonstration outside the Newport Beach office of one of Proposition 187's co-authors, Harold Ezell, a former regional commissioner for the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Ezell has emerged as one of the most visible spokesmen of the so-called "Save Our State" initiative, which would bar illegal immigrant children from enrolling in California's public schools and would deny all but emergency medical treatment to undocumented immigrants.
Recent polls have shown that the initiative, which will be on the November general election ballot, stands a good chance of passing.
Members of the church-sponsored Southern California Organizing Committee, carrying signs with slogans like "SOS means Strangle Our Schools" and "We Want Justice," pointed out that Ezell, who headed the INS' Western Region from 1983 to 1989, is in part responsible for the problem that the initiative seeks to solve.
"Mr. Ezell was in charge of immigration on the West Coast for years," said Father David O'Connell, one of the protest organizers. "Why didn't he do something then?"
O'Connell said the initiative has further divided an already fragmented community by singling out Latinos as a problem population.
"It's just handy for the politicians to scapegoat one group," he said.
Protest organizers said they had made their point, even though security guards prevented them from entering the business complex where Ezell's immigration consulting firm has its office. Guards ordered protesters off the Koll Center property and onto a public sidewalk.
"We want him to be aware that we know who he is," said Anita Nicklen, one of the protesters.
Ezell later dismissed the protest as the work of "hired guns" in the pay of initiative opponents.
"I first heard about (the protest demonstration) when I heard somebody singing in Spanish outside my window. I think they should do that every day all over the state, because I think that's going to bring more people out to vote," Ezell said.
"This is absolutely ridiculous that they would come to my office to carry on like that. Now we've seen the kind of tactics they use. They're not local. This priest is from the 213 (telephone) area. I don't know who he is."
Ezell said the crowd was distributing "disinformation" about the initiative. "On the education thing, we want the Supreme Court to go back and revisit that 1982 decision and say, 'We can't afford to educate every 5-year-old who comes here for 12 years of free education,' " Ezell said. "That's why we put it in there, so we have a mechanism to do it. So the entire issue will get its day in court."