In what started out as a routine traffic stop, police officers in Tucson, AZ, pulled over a car for missing a license plate light. When they approached the driver and passenger, neither person in the car could produce a driver’s license or other form of ID.
Police responded by calling in the Border Patrol, as required by the state’s controversial anti-immigration law SB 1070.
As Border Patrol agents tried to arrest the two undocumented immigrants, a crowd of more than 100 concerned citizens appeared, holding hands in a circle around the Border Patrol vehicle to try to protect the immigrants. Many of the protestors were from the Southside Presbyterian Church, which supports the rights of the undocumented.
Faced with controlling the crowd, police opted to use their pepper spray. Although the protestors were not violent, police also reportedly shoved some of them to the pavement.
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In an interview with local ABC channel KGUN9, one woman reported that an officer was “less than two feet away from me, and she sprayed my face dead on in my eyes for about a good 4 to 5 seconds. And then again too. So there was rough-housing, there was pushing people to the ground.”
According to the hot-button Arizona legislation, which was passed in 2010, police are mandated to verify the immigration status of anyone who shows “reasonable suspicion” of lacking documentation.
Opponents of the law, which include the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), claim that it poses a serious violation of rights and is blatantly racist and discriminatory.
The ACLU website states that “Laws inspired by Arizona’s SB 1070 invite rampant racial profiling against Latinos, Asian-Americans and others presumed to be ‘foreign’ based on how they look or sound. They also authorize police to demand papers proving citizenship or immigration status from anyone they stop and suspect of being in the country unlawfully.”