Tea Partiers took to the streets that Saturday to protest President Obama’s promised immigration reform, which would include a path to citizenship for some immigrants.
In Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Tea Partiers were met with counterprotesters from ANSWER — an antiwar, pro-immigration reform group — responding to the Tea Party folks with a blaring, “Amnesty, yes. Racists, no,” from a bullhorn. When two Tea Party activists entered their protest zone, a fight erupted as Tea Party and ANSWER protesters kicked and punched one another, then the fight allegedly spilled into the middle of a busy intersection.
Although there have been hundreds of peaceful protests about the immigration issue, this event can be seen as a symptom of the polarizing rhetoric that fueled them, and further reflects the political extremes that are in play today.
According to the article linked here, the ANSWER protesters had described the Tea Party protesters as racists who needed to be stopped. The tensions, according to the report, were related to these accusations.
The degree to which the anti-immigration movement is engaged in the politics of race is an issue of heated debate today. Groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center have explicitly linked many of the leaders of the anti-immigrant movement, such as the Center for Immigration Studies, to larger issues of race and discrimination. They also report that the anti-immigrant propaganda has many real-life consequences for immigrants, regardless of their immigrations status.
There is one more issue that I would like to point out about this protest and the fight that ensued–most of the Tea Party members are older white Americans. They are being challenged by a younger multi-ethnic crowd. One represents the America of the past. The other represents the America of the future.