Wall protesters get rowdy in Marfa
Wall protesters gathered in mass at the Paisano Hotel in Marfa Wednesday afternoon (January 2008) to let the US Border Patrol know exactly how they felt about the Security Fence Act of 2006. Signs, shouts, speeches and screams filled the air an hour prior to the formal Environmental Assessment which is designed to be a public forum to discuss the pros and cons of the “tactical infrastructure” also known as the wall at the international bridge at Presidio/Ojinaga.
“When you have truth on your side, you still stand a chance in this country,” Billy Addington of Sierra Blanca the first speaker to address the crowd said, crooning into a makeshift microphone set up on the sidewalk in front of the hotel.
“They said it was a done deal at Sierra Blanca too,” He referred to the nuclear waste site that the federal government had hoped to create in Hudspeth County. “But we worked hard for eight years and beat them. It can be done,” he hollered. The speakers rattled and the crowd of protesters cheered.
Meantime, the local police, state troopers and green uniformed Border Patrol agents hovered nearby.
“I’d estimate somewhere between 100 to 150 people,” Marfa Police Chief J.D.Wilbourne said.
“Big group, exercising their rights,” State Trooper Morris added.
A released bouquet of black balloons floated over the crowd, dull against the gray clouds in the sky.
“I don’t think Homeland Security knows what they’re in for,” Don Dowdy of Alpine said as he turned from the mike to the cheers of the crowd.
“When they look across the border they see potential terrorists, drug smugglers, we see a beautiful culture, and friends,” Robert Halperin of Marfa said.
“Cherkov? He aint never had an enchilada. What’s he know about this country?” Harry Hudson of Marfa said, bending over the mike. “I’d like to fix him an enchilada, a real hot one.”
“Anybody who knows their history and hasn’t played too much football, knows that walls don’t work; Troy, China, Germany, Palestine…”
Yellow, red, black and white signs waved above the heads of the crowd. “Stop the Wall,” “Love thy Neighbor,” “Fear tactics don’t work,” “Walls – antithesis of democracy,” read the signs.
More people arrived. Rod Ponton of Alpine spoke then Father Mel of Redford,
“78 years ago I was born into a free country and today I am a casualty of a police state.”
“The first thing we do is get mad, get very angry,” the Terlingua Justice of the Peace said.
“If the river could speak…,” Adrienne Evans of Terlingua said to the crowd. Her eyes filled with tears and then she walked away from the mike.
Singer/songwriter Mike Stevens of Alpine followed with a wall song of his doing and then gave way to a trio of local guitarists. People began to shuffle across the tiled floor of the hotel’s patio, in small groups and singletons, past the dry fountain and into the Buffalo Room where the official information – public forum was to begin.
Inside the room, the seats were full and a large standing crowd in the back of the room huddled, talking amongst themselves. The strong smell of cat urine hung in the air.
A large white-haired man with a British accent addressed the crowd from the podium, “I’m Loren Flausman of Customs and Border Protection in Washington D.C. and we’re here today to find out if we’ve missed anything.”
The crowd roared back, “Yes,” “Plenty,” “Are you kidding?” “Where would you like to begin?”
A series of questions barraged the speaker from different parts of the room. Some were addressed, few were answered. Then the crowd was told to fill out a form with their questions and comments and mail it, fax it, email it, or visit www.BorderFenceNEPA.com
More and more official speakers stood up in various parts of the room trying to handle the stream of unanswered questions.
“If this is about terrorists and not immigration, then why aren’t they building the wall on the Canadian border, because that’s where the only known terrorists have passed?” Barbara Baskin of Redford asked.
Toward the end of the meeting Flausman’s voice broke through the rumble in answer to a question,” This is nothing. I’ve been shot, I’ve been mortared. I’ve been through a lot worse than this. Believe me, this is a cakewalk.”
John Smietana Jr., Chief of the Marfa Sector Border Patrol sat at a table, near the back of the room, behind stacks of government information brochures. “They won’t build it until everything’s been put together, piece by piece, inch by inch.”