It’s a Trumpian dream come true in TJ: mobs seeking to attack migrants as they arrive seeking asylum.
With passions inflamed by –at best– hyperbolic claims made on social media, anti-migrant protests led by various right wing groups have been taking place as elements of the caravan demonized by the U.S. President and his cohorts have been arriving in Tijuana.
One Facebook post claimed Hondurans tortured and killed a dog. Another claimed LGBTQ migrants were seeking molest children.
The first group to arrive was about 400 refugees, mostly from Honduras. Initially they staying in Playas de Tijuana, on the border with Friendship Park in the United States. They were confronted by an angry crowd,
identifying themselves as local neighbors and “concerned citizens.”
From Armando Carmona, writing for Latino Rebels:
As someone who was there attempting to dialogue and directly engage with the questions and concerns the protesters were raising, it was appalling to witness such vile hatred, misunderstanding, and racism towards the refugees. I had a chance to speak with some locals about their supposed “fears” about “immigrant invasions” but it quickly became clear many of the protesters were not there to talk, nor was this a spontaneous community response. They were there to incite hatred and to instigate violence.
The most violent and aggressive anti-immigrant voices were Trump supporters from Chula Vista attempting to make a name for themselves. One woman with a Facebook page called “Paloma for Trump” identifies herself as an “American from Mexico.” She consistently made the nonsensical (but now well-known) claims about how the Democrats and Soros were the main financiers of the caravan.
Notably, during a press conference on that same day, several self-described Trump supporters, namely “Frontline America with Ben Bergquam” and “Amy Sutton,” attended with the intent to disrupt.
Following assorted incidents where migrants seeking asylum were harassed and threatened, the government decided to move most of them into a sports complex in downtown Tijuana.
On Sunday, several hundred angry residents marched to the complex.
The demonstration began in front of a statue of the Aztec ruler Cuauhtemoc, were participants waved Mexican flags, sang the Mexican national anthem and chanted “Out! Out!”
They were reportedly angered by social media accounts and videos accusing the migrants of being messy, ungrateful and a danger to Tijuana.
A Facebook group, Tijuana en Contra de la Caravana Migrante (Tijuana Against the Migrant Caravan) — issued calls for deportation of caravan members without legal status in Mexico, a measure necessary “to avoid their causing a collapse of our region.”
From the BBC:
“They are invaders! They are armed! Get out of the country,” protesters shouted, according to Reuters news agency.
Esther Monroy, 58, told AFP news agency she feared the numbers of migrants gathering in the city would lead to the US closing the border crossing,
“Most of us in this depend on business from people coming and going across the border,” she said.
Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum’s pleas for financial assistance, mingled with statements about migrants being violent and lazy have been amplified by the Tweeter-in-Chief.
Via the Associated Press:
Gastelum wondered why the migrants chose Tijuana instead of other Mexican cities on the U.S. border, vaguely suggesting a sinister plot without elaborating.
“There is an intention to do things badly. There is an intention to prejudice Tijuana, and we cannot allow that,” he said.
His comments marked a contrast to a more welcoming tone from other officials. Francisco Rueda, the top deputy to Baja California Gov. Francisco Vega de la Madrid, said Thursday that the state had 7,000 jobs available for any migrants who obtain legal status in Mexico.
Here’s an eyewitness account from an US observer:
If the police had not been there, this scene would surely have included deaths and rioting within and outside the sports complex itself. This plays in contrast to the persistent rumor that it was elements within the Tijuana mayor’s office which organized and fostered the protests against migrants.
This is a mess which is not helped at all by the presence of American nationalist provocateurs such as “Paloma for Trump” – you can see Paloma standing on a truck wearing a massive sombrero style hat and screaming into a megaphone and waving a Mexican flag. She claims that she has dual citizenship and that she is a “nationalist for America and a nationalist for Mexico” – try to wrap your head around that madness for a moment.
Many fights broke out throughout the day. One of them saw a woman who appeared to be Honduran attacked by multiple people in the middle of a huge crowd. The police did nothing. Paloma immediately started screaming into her Facebook feed that a migrant had started the fight out of nowhere. This was total nonsense and Paloma surely knew it. But Paloma and those like her rely on our willingness to accept a narrative that feeds our own fears and desires.
They are willing to lie and inflame and deceive, and these tactics are proving just as effective in Mexico as they are in America.
From the Los Angeles Times:
A march by protesters through downtown took on the character of a mob as angry demonstrators tried to storm the sports facility housing caravan participants, who began arriving last week in Tijuana after a month on the road.
Word that angry Mexican protesters were approaching the sports complex sent many migrants running back inside. Fear and uncertainty reverberated in the sports facility.
“We feel trapped,” said Jose Antonio Paz, 32, who traveled from the city of El Progreso, Honduras, with his wife and four daughters. “People came after us with rocks. How can we defend ourselves?”
Added Linda de Los Angeles Morales, from El Salvador: “We were outside looking for food when we heard the Mexicans were coming after us…. Now we are locked inside and scared. What if they come to get us at night?”