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Reverend Dr. Beth Johnson: End the militarization of the border

Cathleen Williams, interviewer  |  Issue: February | March 2019
activists at the U.S.-Mexico border

On Dec.10, Border Patrol agents in riot-gear confront faith based activists at the U.S.-Mexico border.
PHOTO: PALOMAR UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST FELLOWHIP

 

It can take courage to kneel before power, to fall to your knees at the feet of heavily armed U.S. border patrol agents standing between you and the curling wire that has been strung against the wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

But the Americans who approached the border on December 10, 2018, with their pastors, their ministers, their rabbis, imams, and religious leaders – had that courage.

Reverend Dr. Beth Johnson, Minister of the Palomar Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Vista, California, joined the vigil at the border that day, also representing the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. She shared her story with the People’s Tribune.

“First we walked to the border, one by one on the muddy path, thinking of the long journey the asylum seekers had made, and calling out the names of the migrants killed by border agents.

“On shifting sand, we approached the enforcement zone, the slatted fence that separates San Diego from Mexico. We understood that this was a recent, artificial border. At Friendship Park we encountered 40 border patrol agents holding shields, in full riot gear, armed with batons and tear gas, standing there at the concertina wire,

“We symbolically poured out water, in a planned ritual. Water knows no borders. We saw the freedom of the seagulls swinging past the barriers.

“The border patrol said we could not go forward. That’s when the front of the group knelt and prayed silently. The border patrol agents were taken aback by this – seeing people in clerical collars and stoles. In a ludicrous way they kept saying, ‘we don’t want any violence.’  But we kept moving forward, ‘skooching forth!’ About 30 people were arrested.

“We called the action Love Knows No Borders. It was launched by the Amerian Friends Service Committee (AFSC). The goals of the day were three fold – to call on US to respect the human right to migrate, to end militarization of border, and to end detention and deportation.”

According to Pedro Rios, director AFSC’s U.S.-Mexico Border Program based in San Diego, what many people don’t realize is that President Trump’s policies continue a trend that started long before this president took office. Over the past decades, policies under every presidential administration – regardless of political party – have systematically militarized southern border communities, criminalizing millions of immigrants, and creating repressive conditions from California to Texas.

“We kneeled to serve as moral witnesses to this inhumanity. More people must understand what’s happening. My heart is still at the border,” says Reverend Beth.

For more information on the militarization of the border, see the ACLU written statement, “Militarization of Public Security in the Americas,” submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, December 2018..

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