Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Reflections on the Greeley meeting

Down the street on this same night, a meeting of over two hundred people took place to do exactly that. Realizing Our Communities (ROC) met to discuss how all of Greeley can be safer for everyone, welcoming of all peoples, and one community. The ROC meting did not recieve coverage in either the Post or the News. It did draw diverse people from all over Greeley together and continued a conversation that will end in healing and a stronger community someday.

Why do I write this reflection? Becuase the truth is important. I write this because there is a real need for us to bring our community together and to engage in actions that unite us. In order to do that we need to speak the truth of the fear, the racism, and the hate that undergird much of the anti-immigrant movement. I have not yet been anywhere where this was so evident as at "the forum".

Last night we entered a room of over five hundred people for an event organized by public officials; The District Attorney Ken Buck, the Sheriff and the United States Assistant District Attorney. The event opened with a police color guard presenting the flags of Colorado and the Minutemen side by side and the pledge of allegiance. I am a really outgoing person however I felt no invitation or desire to sit down and join the attendees.

The racism was palpable as each white person at the door was greeted with a smile and a handshake while my friends of color received neither. While there were some people who were white that weren't clapping as the presentation went on, the vast majority were.

The event was advertised as a forum. The first thing the DA did was to tell us all that the meeting was informational and that they would not tae questions from the audience. Each official began by saying that the foreign born population does not make up much of the crime in Weld County. As the slides rolled by they sent a contradictory visual message which didn't match the words of the officials. So we watched 12 slides go by of men with Latino surnames who were foreign born and had been convicted of drunk driving over the last year. The officials never mentioned how many people born here were convicted of drunk driving or what percentage of convictions the foreign born population represents. They also used foreign born interchangeably with "ixxxxxl immigrants". This generalization was meant to communicate again the underlying message that you should be afraid of brown people in general. And so it went with progressively more serious crimes.

We listened to the testimony of victims of crimes committed by immigrants. All of the testimonies were either done in the hall or by video in the victim's home, except the last one. The organizers saved the testimony of an immigrant woman whose husband was killed by an immmigrant driving drunk as the last testimony. She was being interviewed by a staff member of the DA's in an official room with an American flag in the background. The translation wasn't simultaneous so that her testimony was robbed of its emotion as the DA's staff member translated in a flat voice. As she spoke of the loss of her husband, and her daughter cried for her father, more than 100 people got up and left. Apparently they were uninterested in any crime in which the victim is an immigrant.

Absent from the forum was any mention of the crimes committed by citizens against immigrants. Unpaid wages, hate crimes, robberies, assaults, rapes, intimidation and threats.

The sheriff passed out Colorado Alliance for a Secure America (CASA) flyers as people left. The flyers attack the Mayor of Greeley, who went to DC to lobby for comprehensive immigration reform. This group of officials who insist that immigrant crime is a problem in Greeley apparently do not want a solution and are uninterested in immigration reform.

The group of us who were there spoke with the Sheriff and the District Attorney afterwards. The District Attorney literally walked away from two of my friends of color in midsentence. They were trying to make a point about the images and the presentation and the stereotypes his office is furthering. One of my friends was saying the whole event was a shame. as the DA walked away, I followed and watched him listening attentively to members of CASA. I approached him, and he listened to me, a white woman, who was saying the exact same thing that my friends had said.

Statement by the Anti-Defamation League

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