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BURLINGTON TIMES-NEWS: Protests met with counter-demonstration in North Carolina

April 6th, 2009

By Robert Boyer

A possible confrontation is brewing between an immigrant rights group and those who support the 287 (g) program and Sheriff Terry Johnson.

Last week, local anti-illegal immigration advocate Kim Oliver obtained a permit from Graham police to hold a rally Wednesday afternoon outside the Alamance County Sheriff's Department, said Jeff Prichard, the city's police chief.

The permit allows up to 125 people to gather (provided no more than 25 are younger than 18) on the east side of Maple Street between noon and 5 p.m. and carry American flags and signs.

According to a flyer headlined "SUPPORT YOUR SHERIFF!," the rally will be held from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. across from the sheriff's office along the 100 block of S. Maple Street in Graham and is "proudly sponsored by Citizens for Alamance County."

The unsigned flyer encourages attendees to bring "a friend or relative," a sign and "show your support for the people who serve and protect the community.

"No aggressive commentary, no hate speak, and no racist attitudes will be tolerated," the flyer continues. "If that is a problem please stay home."

The flyer urges those coming to "let your voice be heard in support of honest men and women who are under attack from illegal alien advocacy groups claiming racial profiling and unethical law enforcement policies."

Failing to do so "gives the green light to these advocacy groups who hope to next push an agenda of ‘Sanctuary County' upon us as they did our Chatham County neighbors," the flyer concludes.

Oliver, who owns a concrete business, has said the labor force created by illegal immigration is producing the same results as the shift of jobs from the United States to other countries, according to a June 2007 Times-News story.

A pro-immigrant group called Witness for Peace is scheduled to march through Graham and Burlington on Wednesday as part of a trek that began in Charlotte on Sunday and ends in Raleigh on Friday.

The immigrant rights group was founded to restrain violence in Central American countries by placing independent observers in "conflict zones" and now focuses "on the intersection between U.S. policy and the struggles for democracy and economic justice in Latin America," said Jerry Markatos, a Witness board member.

Economic hardship is driving small farmers and others into the United States, Markatos said. "The thing that's so ironic is that people in a textile town don't unite with their brothers" and deal with the economic problems caused by the North American Free Trade Agreement and like-minded policies spawned by wealthy interests in the U.S. and Latin America.

The agreement "pulled the economic rug out from under working people so that they had no choice but to starve or come to the United States," he said.

Such agreements concentrate wealth, hurt those on both sides of the border and need to be fixed, he added. "The interests have drafted this agreement so recklessly that 12 new billionaires were created as millions lost their farms" in Mexico.

Markatos said it was his understanding that his group would march by the sheriff's office.

Prichard said groups don't need a permit to march in Graham, but a city ordinance requires a permit if a group wants "to gather."

Markatos said he wasn't aware of the "legalities" of stopping for a rally in Graham and is unsure whether someone from Witness will seek a permit.

Sheriff's spokesman Randy Jones provided the Times-News a copy of the flyer which has been circulating.

Jones said the sheriff's office doesn't plan to intervene if the groups clash but will assist if the Graham police ask.

"That will be the responsibility of the Graham (Police Department)," Jones said.

To read the article in the Burlington Times-News, click here.  

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