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Protestors decry signing of SB 1070

Gov. Jan Brewer has called a press conference in Phoenix for 1:30 p.m. to announce her decision on SB 1070, which makes it illegal to be in Arizona without the proper proof of citizenship or legal visitor.

She’s expected to sign the bill, according to reports in the Arizona Republic.

Meanwhile, a large crowd of bill opponents has formed at the Capitol to protest the bill.

From the Arizona Republic:

UPDATED – 2:30

by Weston Phippen and Brittany Williams
The Arizona Republic

Protesters who had camped out at the Arizona State Capitol for days in hopes of stopping what was billed as the toughest illegal immigration law in the country reacted with boos and chants of “Shame on you” on Friday after the governor announced she was signing the legislation into law.

Reaction seemed to ripple through the crowd of protesters on the Capitol mall.

Someone announced Brewer’s decision over a microphone from a stage sponsored by a Spanish-language radio station. The boos and chants soon followed.

“It’s racist. It’s discrimination,” said Frankie Del Toro, a student at Estrella Middle School in west Phoenix.

From news video taken at the scene, at about 2:15 p.m. some protesters appeared to throw water bottles at police who were taking one person into custody. Calm seemed to be restored within a few minutes.

Many of the student protesters began a march around the Capitol mall about 30 minutes after Brewer’s announcement.

Local television stations interrupted programming to carry the announcement live. Brewer’s signing was carried by national cable news channels.

Brewer’s announcement came not at the Capitol, but at a human resource center used by the state Department of Transportation, about 2 miles northeast of the state’s executive office. There were no protesters there.

Senate Bill 1070 makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally. It requires local law enforcement to determine an individual’s immigration status if an officer suspects that person is in the country illegally.

Earlier Friday, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon spoke to throngs of activists and encouraged them to keep the protest peaceful, noting that the Arizona immigration bill will be defeated, one way or another.

“This is clearly unconstitutional,” Gordon said as he stood in front of more than an estimated 1,000 chanting and cheering protesters. “This will get overturned, this will clearly get overturned.”

Gordon told the crowd to remain unified and not to give up hope. Gordon also told them not to follow through with some of the economic boycotts the protesters were planning. He finished his speech with, “In the words of Cesar Chavez: ‘Si se puede.” The crowd continued to chant the words.

About 40 supporters of the bill were sequestered on the Capitol grounds by a cadre of yellow-shirted security guards who linked arms around them for protection.

The two opposing crowds jeered and yelled at one another. Yellow caution tape and barricades cut through the lines and the protesters circled around them. Police, Department of Public Safety and sheriff’s officers kept watch at the protest. They peered down with binoculars from the tops of the Senate and House of Representatives buildings, scanning the crowd.

Judy Hoelscher, a self-described “angry, right-wing house wife,” distributed yellow signs that said, “Stop illegal immigration.”

Activists had protested at the Capitol for several days in hopes that Brewer would veto the bill. Students had left school Thursday and marched to the statehouse. Other activists marched to a downtown Phoenix hotel Thursday night where Brewer spoke at a fundraising dinner for Chicanos Por La Causa.

Two sisters, Maria and Rocio Vara, protested throughout the day until 1 a.m. and came back six hours later to join in again.

“It’s discrimination. Just because you have dark skin doesn’t mean you’re illegal,” Maria Vara said.

On Friday morning, activists stood in a circle at the Capitol, their fists raised into the air while a man in the middle chanted and said prayers in Spanish. They yelled and shouted, carrying signs and waiving banners.

Spanish-language Radio Campesina was urging everyone to go the Capitol on Friday but also cautioned to be careful not to provoke anyone.

Travis Franklin, 24, stood amid the crowd holding a sign that read, “Brewer, I pay your paycheck. So now sign senate bill 1070.”

“I’m here to voice my opinion,” Franklin said. “Some people called me a racist bastard, I’m not a racist.”

The bill is not perfect, Franklin said, but he is willing to support it because he believes that something is better than nothing. A Rasmussen poll of 500 people shows that 70 percent of Arizonans also support the bill.

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