As the House prepared to vote on S1070, protesters took to the Capitol lawn with chants, megaphones and drums. Supporters of the bill showed up in kind, and antagonistic jabs were lobbed across the courtyard.
Caught in the middle, the Arizona Cattlemen’s Association was trying to hold a press conference to unveil a plan to call for better border security in the wake of last month’s killing of southern Arizona rancher Rob Krentz, whose gunman is a suspected illegal immigrant.
The noise of the mob eventually caused the cattlemen to move inside the Senate building.
Bas Aja, executive vice president of the Arizona Cattlemen’s Association, said the protesters were simply confused.
“It was a mix up. They were here to yell about (Sen. Russell) Pearce’s bill,” Aja said. “I told them we were here to let the family and friends of the rancher killed talk. I asked them to keep it down and be respectful so they could talk, but they wouldn’t.”
After moving indoors, the cattlemen outlined their recommendations, including a call for National Guard troops, the authorization of deadly force and improved communication ability among law enforcement on the border.
They made it very clear that they had no position on S1070, and said they are asking for no new legislation in their action plan, especially pointing out that they see calls for internal enforcement of illegal immigration as ineffective to the more general problem.
So while the protesters likely had a stance closer to the cattlemen than not, Aja said their ignorance of the details of the group’s plan caused nonsensical protest.
“They were belligerent,” Aja said. “They just wanted to beat their drum and yell because Pearce was standing there next to us.”