Protest Targets Maywood’s Stance

Times Staff Writer

For a couple of hours Saturday, a small group of demonstrators made Slauson Avenue in the tiny city of Maywood feel like the red-hot center of the national debate over immigrant rights.

A few dozen people from Save Our State and like-minded groups lined up behind police barricades, shouted into bullhorns and waved American flags to protest characterizations of the heavily Latino, square-mile city by some elected officials as a sanctuary for illegal immigrants.

Separated from the Save Our State contingent by other barricades and a line of riot-ready police a block away, about 200 counter-demonstrators shouted into their own bullhorns that it was time for amnesty and for the “racists” to go home.


Joseph Turner of San Bernardino, founder of Save Our State, said his group staged the protest in Maywood “to punish the city ... for their transgressions” by disrupting traffic and commerce and making the city pay for extra police.

Protester Roger Young, an aerospace engineer from Lake Forest, said he had been involved in two traffic accidents with illegal immigrants who had no driver’s licenses or insurance and tried to walk away, even though they were at fault. He said he was upset about people breaking laws, adding that it is difficult to get his point of view heard. “To voice a different opinion in this city,” he said, “it takes 100 policemen for an escort.”

Maywood’s police force, which has about 40 officers, was heavily mobilized Saturday, supplemented by officers from nearby cities, including South Gate, Whittier and Huntington Park, and by Los Angeles school police.

Maywood Mayor Thomas Martin estimated that the city would pay $20,000 to $30,000 for police overtime.

No arrests were made as police turned back attempts by counter-demonstrators to take side streets around the barricades and confront the Save Our State group.

Pedro Olguin, a union organizer from Maywood, stood with the counter-protesters, many of whom were from groups that drew from outside the city. Among them were Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, and the Mexica Movement, which proclaims that peoples indigenous to the Americas “are not the illegals. Europeans are the illegals.”

Olguin said he is part of a coalition that prevailed upon the Maywood City Council to oppose legislation that passed the House of Representatives in December calling for tougher enforcement measures against illegal immigrants.

Opponents of the legislation believe it would require cities such as Maywood, which is 96% Latino, to aggressively enforce immigration laws.

The city’s resolution opposing the federal legislation was designed to say, “We won’t use city funds to enforce immigration laws,” Olguin said.

Martin, who supported the measure and well-publicized statements by a colleague that Maywood is a “sanctuary city,” was promoting an event at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church three blocks away, where a couple of hundred people were treated to free lunch and Mariachi music while they were urged to become citizens and register to vote.

Martin said immigration enforcement by local authorities would promote unfair ethnic profiling.

In going on record against the federal legislation, he said, “We wanted to send a clear message to all departments of the community that we don’t want you to be” immigration agents, he said.

Maywood has an official population of 28,000. But local officeholders say that about 45,000 people live there when illegal immigrants are fully counted.