By Alberto Mucci
Less than three months ago Martin Unzueta, 67, was arrested for “disorderly conduct” in Alabama. A Chicagoan, Unzueta had traveled to Montgomery, Ala., with twelve other activists to stage a sit-in in front of the yellowhammer state’s Capitol Hill.
The new Alabama immigration law was too much for Unzueta and his fellow activists to accept. HB 56 allows police to question people suspected of being in the country illegally and to hold them without bond. In addition, officials can check the immigration status of students in public schools without previous notice.
Last Saturday Occupy el Barrio, the Pilsen-born movement that acts in solidarity with Occupy Chicago, hosted a fundraiser to help Unzueta to pay for his trip back to Alabama. On February 26, the activists will have to appear in front of the state Court to litigate their case.
The fundraiser was also the occasion for a group of panelists and an enthusiastic crowd to discuss the creation of bridges between the Occupy movement and the immigrant community, an issue that has been debated since the beginning of the Occupy movement in New York last September.
A persistent question has been why so few African Americans and Latinos have taken part in Occupy around the country and in Chicago. Mantene Gomez, an activist with Occupy el Barrio, in a conversation with the Occupied Chicago Tribune, explained:
Occupy sprang up as a movement mainly denouncing income inequality. It’s obviously a very important topic, but I can say that for the majority of Latino immigrants the main interest in national politics is in relation to the issue of being a documented or an undocumented immigrant. Occupy has talked very little about this topic so it’s therefore not surprising that so few activists from the Latino community have joined the cause. Still bridges can be built and the two causes can be united. This is what we are trying to do tonight.
On the same topic Kieran Aarons, a member of Occupy Chicago and one of the panelists of the evening, stated:
Occupy is the movement of the working class against the economic privileges of the 1%. Immigrants and Latinos are part of the 99% and are therefore part of the Occupy movement. It’s not a novelty that class politics and immigration politics are intertwined. They have been since the birth of the working class and today probably more than ever. Moreover we should not just look at immigrants and ask ourselves what we can do for them, but also what they can do for us. They are the best allies we have in this fight.
The event was a success. By the end of the night Occupy el Barrio had raised several hundred dollars for Martin Unzueta to head back to Montgomery. Despite the arrest he has not lost his will to be an activist and, as he told the Occupied Chicago Tribune, “will continue fighting discriminating immigration laws in solidarity with Occupy.”