As Pomona's graduation ceremony was about to begin on the Marston Quadrangle in front of Bridges Auditorium, the protesters wended their way through the Claremont Village beating drums and shouting protest calls (¡Obama, eschucha! ¡Estamos en la lucha! and ¡Si, se puede!).
The marchers gathered on the steps of the Carnegie Building on College Ave. across the street from Marston and continued their protest as Napolitano gave her speech. The protesters waved banners and signs and a few American flags. They railed against the new Arizona law empowering local police and sheriffs to arrest illegal immigrants and also criticized Pomona College's treatment of its food service workers, who have been trying without success to unionize.
A much smaller group of counter-protesting Minutemen and Minutewomen faced the main protest from the east side of College Ave. and waved their own signs and American flags. A contingent of Claremont police stood in the middle of the street keeping the peace, and there seemed to be plenty of additional private security all around the quadrangle.
We saw a news van from Corona-based Telemundo affiliate KVEA-52 parked near the counter-protest. A reporter stood on a platform with a hand-held mike, describing the hullabaloo for her viewers.
The events made the Los Angeles Times, whose Ruben Vives wrote:
Demonstrators said Napolitano has continued to expand immigration programs that they say were precursors to Arizona's law, which requires police officers to check the immigration status of anybody they stop and suspect may be here illegally.
And LA Newspaper Group reporter Liset Marquez gave a more detailed account of the protest:
The group was calling for an end to what they claim are discriminatory immigration enforcement policies in her department.
"Wherever (Napolitano) and others who continue to support shameful immigration policies go, we're going to be there demanding change," [Pomona grad Nick] Gerber told the marchers just before leaving for his graduation Sunday morning.
After Napolitano concluded her speech, the protest moved on to Claremont's Shelton Park. Some more speechifying ensued, mostly in Spanish, which prompted one sympathetic bystander to remark that the protesters might alienate the general public by not speaking in Spanish and could actually encourage calls for crackdowns on illegal immigration as happened in 2006 after images of large-scale pro-immigrant protesters waving Mexican flags made the news.
We'd have to concur with the bystander. While we can certainly understand immigrants, legal or not, being proud of their heritage, it's also been important historically for these same groups to show that they've assimilated, and language (English) is a part of demonstrating that assimilation. For better or worse, that's just a fact of life here.
Memo to Sunday's protesters: your marketing message may need a little more fine-tuning to resonate with a wider, non-college audience.