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Anti-Minutemen protesters win court victory

May 5, 2006 | Page 11

CHICAGO--Six months after their arrests during a peaceful protest against the anti-immigrant Minutemen Project, four antiracist activists were sentenced April 25 to a court supervision and community service work.

The activists, who were originally threatened with up to a year in jail but received the lesser sentence after pleading guilty to misdemeanor battery, and their supporters are hailing the decision as a victory. "We did nothing wrong on October 15," said Cindy Gomez. "We stand by everything we did."

The four were among some 500 immigrant rights protesters--many of them Latinos--who gathered in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights on October 15 to protest a conference and recruitment "boot camp" that the Minutemen were holding at a local school.

The Minutemen is not only a group that opposes immigration but organizes armed vigilantes to patrol and "protect" the U.S. border. In response to news that the group was trying to recruit in the Chicago area, activists quickly organized a protest to let them know that they won't organize unopposed.

During the picket on the sidewalk outside the Christian Liberty Academy where their boot camp was taking place, five immigrant rights protesters were singled out by police and arrested on trumped-up charges of resisting arrest and battery against the police officers.

Outrageously, police forcibly removed the hijab, or religious headscarf, from protester Rehana Khan's head when they took her into custody. Arlington Heights police claim that they had to remove her headscarf as a "security precaution." "It is very disrespecting," said Khan. "To me, my head scarf is a sign that I am a Muslim."

Over the last months, supporters campaigned around the case of the protesters. In the plea bargain, four of the arrestees pleaded guilty to battery while prosecutors agreed to drop the resisting arrest charges.

"This is an important victory for those of us who believe the Minutemen is the new Ku Klux Klan," said Jed Stone, who represented one of the protesters.

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