Protesters have gathered near the entrance to a Border Patrol facility in Murrieta, Calif., on Friday to await buses of undocumented immigrants, but whether those buses will arrive is unknown.
Unlike Tuesday when shouting, flag-waving protesters blocked three busloads of immigrants, Murrieta police Friday morning cleared the entry road.
The estimated 100 demonstrators, including those favoring the immigrants, were being restricted to a “safety zone” away from the road. Many had remained all night at the site, vowing a repeat of Tuesday’s blockade.
Authorities kept the road to the processing center clear and the protesters in check, although scuffles did break out. In total, Murrieta police arrested six people for obstructing officers including five who were detained during an afternoon altercation,
On Friday morning, one 56-year-old protester was cited for interfering with police, authorities said. Local police officers also had to step in and separate two groups of protesters who were arguing, but no one appeared to be injured or arrested following that confrontation.
Earlier this week, federal officials said that 140 immigrants would arrive Friday at Lindbergh Field in San Diego by charter flight from Texas and then be sent for processing to Murrieta, a community of 105,000 along Interstate 15 in southern Riverside County.
But in the wake of Tuesday’s blockade, officials declined to announce the schedule. The result was that it was unknown whether buses would arrive at Murrieta or get rerouted to other facilities where there were few, if any, protesters.
On Thursday night, Murrieta City Manager Rick Dudley issued a “message to the community” calling for greater civility from those opposed to the government’s approach to the mass influx of undocumented immigrants. He said Tuesday’s protest brought unflattering national news coverage and “was a loss for the city of Murrieta, for the community that we live in and love.”
“It made this extremely compassionate community look heartless and uncaring,” he said. “That is not the Murrieta that we all know and love.”
In a shift from previous days, pro-immigrant supporters outnumbered anti-illegal immigration protesters on the dusty roads leading to the Murrieta Border Patrol facility Friday.
With the steady beat of drums keeping time, dancers in indigenous garb chanted and held signs urging respect and dignity for immigrants. A crowd of roughly 80, down from the hundreds who had blocked buses on Tuesday, milled behind a police line under the hot sun.
Elizabeth Thornton joined them to argue against the intolerance she says has defined the debate so far. “I’m not a fan of ICE,” she said. “But this is a necessary step for these people to be released. We’re here to counter the overwhelming racism and xenophobia that we’ve seen here the last few days.”
Maria Carrillo, a local resident, said she didn’t think that buses of women and children were such a threat. She said her daughter came to Tuesday’s demonstration but was spit on and asked to clean toilets.
“I’ve lived here for 12 years,” Carrillo said, “and I’ve never felt different until now.”
Steve Prime, another area resident, said he was not impressed with the pro-immigration supporters. Unable to attend the week-long protests because of work commitments, he was spending his holiday supporting Murrieta residents opposed to the immigrant arrivals.
“I’m just tired of our borders being overrun,” he said. “We’re here being peaceful. I don’t like the language being used by the other side.”
Many of the anti-immigration protesters, including volunteers who had patrolled the U.S.-Mexico border, were irritated by Dudley’s suggestion that the demonstrators had an issue with the immigrants aboard the bus.
William Satmary, who helped organize the anti-immigration protest, called for the federal government to rethink border policy. Local governments, such as Murrieta, don’t have the capacity to handle the new arrivals, he said.
“We are not racists or bigots. If you love the people on the bus, you should support us because we’re stopping the government from putting them out on the streets,” he said. “This is about resources, not race.” Cindy Klein, 55, of Long Beach, said the demonstrations against the arrival of the buses had nothing to do with the women and children aboard, but rather were about what their arrival represented.
“It’s not the people, I don’t know them, I can’t hate them,” she said. “I hate their actions, that they’ve broken the law.”
James Barragan contributed to this story.