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LOCAL News :: Civil & Human Rights

Activists Protest Threat to Civil Liberties from INS

40 march in Downtown Baltimore to protest the new Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) regulations and its effects on men from the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. (photos by Renee Williams: reneewillams(at)
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BALTIMORE, MD -- About 40 activists protested the new Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) regulations and its effects on men from the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. The protest, endorsed by 16Azar (Iranian student group), SUSTAIN (Stop US Tax-Funded Aid to Israel Now!), Towson Anti-Capitalists, All Peoples Congress, Baltimore Emergency Response Network, Baltimore Peace Action Network, and Left Turn, gathered at Charles and Baltimore Streets, marched to the Garmatz Federal Courthouse Building, then to the Baltimore Sunpapers.


January 10 was the second deadline for "special registration requirements" for non-immigrant men from Afghanistan, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, or Yemen. Such men are now required to register annually with the INS, exceptions being those with US citizenship or permanent residency.

After the first deadline December 16, 2002 according to the American Civil Liberties Union, hundreds of men and boys who voluntarily came to INS facilities to register were arrested, detained and mistreated.

In Los Angeles, California, the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Alliance of Iranian Americans, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the National Council of Pakistani Americans filed a class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court, asking for an immediate stop to the detention of hundreds of legal U.S. visitors who registered in recent weeks as part of a security and monitoring program. The suit accuses the Immigration and Naturalization Service and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft of illegal arrests (Mercury News,12/25/02).


Meanwhile, men from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are required to register by February 21. The Sunpapers (1/5/03) reported that 200 Pakistanis crowded into the Pakistan embassy in Washington DC seeking clarification on the processes and their rights from the INS. Concerned about the reported experiences of Iranians in California, many participants left the INS briefing unsure of their best course of action.

The protesters marched behind a black banner with white lettering proclaiming "Stop the Illegal INS Arrests & Deportation!" chanting "Immigration's Not a Crime, Let John Ashcroft Do the Time!"


When the march reached the Federal Courthouse at Lombard and Hanover Streets, an incident occurred. Towson High student and member of the Baltimore County Anti-War Network Patrick O'Neill attempted to take a photo of the Courthouse when Core Services Officer William Bertazon intervened. According to eye witness Clara Sherley-Appel, Officer Bertazon knocked the camera to the ground with his walkie talkie, saying to O'Neill "Oops, you dropped your camera." O'Neill says that the officer "didn't advise that taking photos was not allowed." The camera was damaged beyond use. Apparently, a Sunpapers photographer present also did not know of such a rule, but he was not treated violently. Federal Protective Officer L. Mount told reporters and activists that it is illegal to take a picture of the building when on its premises, but it was OK from across the street.

While O'Neill met with federal officials to make a complaint about his damaged camera, the march continued to The Sunpapers on Calvert Street where protesters bannered north-bound traffic.

See the articles by Scott Shane in the Baltimore Sunpapers and Jessie Mangaliman in the Mercury News .
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