After a tense standoff with officials at the U.S.-Mexico border on Monday (Dec. 10), at least 30 American clergy were taken into custody over the objections of demonstrators, who had come to protest the treatment of Central American asylum-seekers and to decry the extension of a border wall and the militarization of the border.
Priests, pastors, imams and rabbis knelt at the border south of San Diego in front of a row of U.S. Border Patrol agents clad in riot gear. Organizers said 30 faith leaders were arrested, but a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official put the number at 32.
CBP said most were charged with failing to comply with directions from federal officials and then released, but one was charged with assaulting or resisting an agent — a charge the protesters already dispute.
The “Love Knows No Borders” demonstration was organized by the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker group that assembled religious leaders from across the faith spectrum for the event. Participants said it was meant to express frustration about several border-related issues at once.
“It was about the militarization of the border, about the border wall itself and about calling for the rights of the migrant — particularly the migrant caravan,” said Lucy Duncan, an organizer and outreach director for the AFSC who was at the protest and was among those arrested.
“There were people there from all across the country from all faith traditions risking arrest and making a statement, saying this is not what our country stands for, this is not what our sacred traditions teach,” said the Rev. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the progressive, faith-rooted activist group the Poor People’s Campaign. Theoharis participated in the demonstration but was not detained.
Duncan said AFSC had the idea for the protest after learning that authorities planned to close Friendship Park, a well-guarded stretch of the border where friends and family members on both sides commonly gather to talk through the fence and where religious groups often hold joint worship services.
In addition to Theoharis and Duncan, participants included United Methodist Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño; the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, head of the Unitarian Universalist Association; the Rev. Traci Blackmon, a pastor in Ferguson, Mo., and head of the United Church of Christ’s Justice and Local Church Ministries; the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, former moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA); Omar Suleiman, an imam and adjunct professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas; and Rabbi Brant Rosen, who serves on the rabbinical council of Jewish Voice for Peace. It could not be determined immediately whether they were among those arrested.
[Editor’s Note: Article written by Jack Jenkins and originally published at Religious News Service]
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