Protests of anti-immigrant fundraiser at Geno's Steaks
On July 14th Geno’s Steaks in South Philly held a fundraiser to support the state of Arizona in its impending legal battle with the federal government over SB 1070, the controversial immigration law. SB 1070 came under fire from immigrants’ rights activists, the Obama administration, and many on the left. Section 1 of SB 1070 declares the intent of the law to be to “make attrition through enforcement the public policy of all state and local government agencies in Arizona.” Acts of attrition would include requiring Arizona police to determine the immigration status of all people suspected of being in the country illegally and making it a crime for undocumented people to work in the state.
Joey Vento, outspoken owner of Geno’s Steaks, has garnered criticism for his unwavering support of the Philadelphia Police Department, including staunch support for Daniel Faulkner’s family who oppose any appeal process for Mumia Abu-Jamal, wrongfully imprisoned for Faulkner’s killing.
Geno’s Arizona fundraiser mobilized over a hundred people. Many of the speakers on the Big Talker, which hosted the event, spoke of how Arizonans are afraid to leave their homes for fear of being caught up in drug turf wars or human trafficking. When questioned about why they were out in support of Arizona’s law and legal battles, members of the Geno’s crowd cited a fear of “criminals and rapists and all sorts of bad people coming in here illegally. We don’t have a problem with law abiding people coming to this country, we just want to know who they are and for them to come here legally.”
In 48 hours immigrants' rights organizations like the New Sanctuary Movement were able to mobilize a multi-generational, multi-racial crowd of over a hundred people to show their opposition to Vento’s fear mongering fundraiser. The climate of the demonstration was tense as police lined each side of the street and Geno’s supporters antagonized demonstrators. Meanwhile, demonstrators’ shouts of, “Don’t give in to racist fear, immigrants are welcome here!” could be heard over Jan Brewer’s claims that racial profiling by police would not be accepted under the new law. “Reactionary laws like [SB 1070] and the surrounding rhetoric tend to obscure history” said one demonstrator. “Politicians appeal to people’s sometimes legitimate fears of increased violence as a result of drug cartels. But they don’t speak to the US failed war on drugs that has fueled violence on the border as drugs become big business. They ignore the economic and political realities in immigrants’ home countries that bring people here. When talking about day laborers politicians rarely talk about free trade agreements that push people off of their land and turn farmers into wage laborers.”
Since the fundraiser, Arizona’s law has taken effect, with some of the more controversial aspects blocked by a federal judge. Across Arizona people continue to resist anti-immigrant sentiments inflamed by the bill, as well as still existing rules that allow the Sherriff’s Department to enforce federal immigration law. Philadelphians should continue to come out in support of immigrants’ rights, which are human rights to dignified work, health care and safe spaces, free from police abuse, employers and bad neighbors like Geno’s Steaks.
You can find the New Sanctuary Movement at http://nsmphilly.blogspot.com
For the text of SB 1070 see www.azleg.gov/legtext/49leg/2r/bills/sb1070s.pdf