Feathered Bastard

Peaceful rally for Virginia Gutierrez disrupted by bigoted rednecks.

Two supporters of Virginia Gutierrez, shortly after Wednesday's rally.

A peaceful rally on behalf of deported teen Virginia Gutierrez was disrupted Wednesday at the state capitol by an ugly mob of bigoted rednecks shouting inanities about the Iraq War and mocking speakers with sarcastic "Boo-hoos." The counterdemonstrators appeared towards the end of the demonstration, causing uniformed police officers to rush forward and keep the two groups separated.

While religious leaders, teachers and friends spoke on behalf of the ousted honors student, who signed voluntary deportation papers August 16 and was bussed to Nogales the same day, they were beset by group of 20 or so anti-immigrant nativists, just barely under the 30-some demonstrators who had gathered on Gutierrez's behalf. Supporters carried signs with the girl's teary-eyed mug shot, which read in English and Spanish, "Where's Virginia? Who's Next?" Counterdemonstrators -- mostly middle-aged whites -- did their best to interrupt the speakers, shouting that Virginia was now "where she belonged," and that her fate was her parents' fault.

One handlebar mustachioed dood I approached smelled heavily of beer, and threatened to turn violent until a plainclothes cop warned him that if he kept "bumping" into people, he would be arrested. You could feel the hatred, the prejudice and fanaticism oozing out of the man's pores. Why, I wondered? How could anyone bring themselves to hate 18-year-old Virginia? A hard-working, meek individual if there ever was one. A young woman with a 4.2 GPA, and scholarships to attend ASU this fall.

I missed the press conference earlier with state Representatives David Lujan and Kyrsten Sinema. The rally that was disrupted took place around 4:45 p.m., and was peaceful until the nativist a-holes showed up.

I spoke to a friend of Virginia's, Esmeralda, also 18, who just began ASU this fall, and who graduated with Virginia from North High School. She fought back tears as she described how her friend had ambitions of being a pediatrician, and how excited Virginia was to begin college at ASU. She said Virginia was receiving no federal financial aid, and had a job in the real estate industry to earn money for tuition and books.

"You can see her mugshot," remarked Esmeralda, indicating one of the placards the demonstrators were carrying. "She's crying in it. She was dropped off in Nogales, that's not a city where a young girl would want to be by herself."

According to Esmeralda, Virginia is somewhere in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, with family. More than one person present believed that Virginia did see a judge while in custody, and that the judge advised her to sign the voluntary deportation forms. Also, Fox 10 News has reported that the Mexican I.D. Virginia presented to PHX PD was later found to be valid and the forgery charges dropped. I have yet to confirm either story.

Never has the meanness and spite of the anti-immigrant crowd been more blatant than in their response to Virginia Gutierrez's situation. The irony is that these self-described "patriots" in fact represent the worst America has to offer -- the angry, rabid rabble of redneck U.S.A. But Virginia, though undocumented, represents all of the best values of the American dream: hard work, education, self-sacrifice, and self-improvement. And I suspect the nativists hate her even more for it.

For more, read, Rally announced for deported teen Virginia Gutierrez at State Capitol, and The Bird item "No, Virginia."

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons