SAN ANTONIO (Border Report) — Protesters locked arms outside the historic Alamo in opposition to dinner being held inside as part of the Border Security Expo on Wednesday night.
In an unusual move, San Antonio police barricaded the protesters using bicycles to hold them at bay during a standoff that lasted several hours while the group chanted “Baby killers!” and “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us,” and “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go!”
About 100 people representing two dozen advocacy groups protested outside the Alamo against the conference, which they say represents an industry that treats immigrants unfairly.
Those familiar with San Antonio said it was unusual for police not to allow the protesters to march in the public open square, but instead kept them in a small area off to the side as a line of Expo dinner guests arrived for the 6 p.m. event.
Border Report tried to ask police whether this is standard protocol but received no answer.
This was the 14th annual Border Security Expo and the fifth to be held in San Antonio. At least 1,100 people attended the conference, many employees of agencies associated with the Department of Homeland Security, as well as private industry groups looking to sell products for border security use.
Some passing cars and buses honked in support of the protesters. Tourists and families gawked at the spectacle, some asking police questions, while others went about taking photos of the iconic building where Mexican forces in 1836 battled and defeated the Republic of Texas.
One protester, Jeffrey Barajas, 38, of San Antonio, who is with the group Be the Change, was seen by several people being grabbed by the back of his neck by a police officer.
“He manhandled me and grabbed me by the next and shoved me to the side,” Barajas told Border Report. “He had a good grip and it hurt.”
Protesters started chanting and congregating at 2 p.m. outside the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, where the Expo is being held, and then walked six blocks over to the Alamo to voice opposition to the dinner being held on those historic lands.
Before they marched to the Alamo, four members of the Autonomous Brown Berets unfurled a three-story sheet from atop a parking garage across from the convention center telling Expo members to leave San Antonio. The wore brown berets and had their faces
Debbie Hernandez, of the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), said she organized the event because “the products that are being sold there, the weapons, the equipment, everything that they are selling there is going to be used to militarize the border and to basically traumatize the migrants that are coming over to seek asylum and we don’t want it to happen anymore.”
Hernandez, who is also a member of the Civil Rights group SA Stands, said they opposed the conference being allowed by city officials to use the Convention Center, which is named after the former Texas congressman who was an active leader during the Civil Rights movement.
“Henry B. Gonzalez has a legacy here in San Antonio. He was a strong advocate for immigrant rights, for Hispanic rights,” Hernandez said. “It’s a city-owned property and the city can make the decision on the big conferences that are here, and we wish that they wouldn’t make the decision to allow this here. Especially not in the Henry B. Gonzalez Center.”
“You’re not welcome in San Antonio!” the group chanted. “Your money is blood money!” “This is a grave yard and people are buried on these lands at the expense of this colonial state,” they chanted into megaphones outside the Alamo.
Protesters took turns sitting inside five 3-by-5-foot metal cages that they said symbolized migrant children separated from families under the Trump administration after crossing the border.
Rebekah Hinojosa sat in one cage. She drove four hours from Brownsville, Texas, to participate on Wednesday, she said. “I didn’t think the Border Expo should happen here. Especially when you know what’s happening at the border where I live. They are militarizing the border and treating migrants so unfairly at the border. There is violence and separation of families. We need to stop it.”
About two dozen organizations took part or helped to co-sponsor the event including: RAICES, SA Stands, Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, Unite Here!, Suenos Sin Fronteras, PODER, Green Party, Sierra Club South Texas, Democratic Socialist of America – San Antonio, MiJente, Barrio Intellect, National Nurses United, Workers World Party, Southwest Workers Union, PSL, Autonomous Brown Berets, About Face: Veterans Against the War South Texas, Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Review- San Antonio, Jewish Voices for Peace, BE-Art Project, Grassroots Global Justice, Fight for Immigrant Rights Everywhere, No Border Wall Coalition, and MOVE SA.
The protests extended until sunset when all peacefully disbursed. The 16 San Antonio police officers who had been using their bike tires to form a line to hold back the group then rode away.