Peaceful protesters in Bradenton demand immigration reform

Cars honked and some people even stopped to join the more than a dozen protesters peacefully demanding immigration reform Saturday afternoon along a Bradenton roadway.

Protesters gathered on the sidewalk outside the Supermarket Acapulco Tropical at 3525 First St. E., Bradenton, waving signs in English and Spanish: “No more deportations.”

The protest, co-sponsored by local nonpartisan group, UNO: United Nation Organization, and the Answer Coalition,was in response to the recent Supreme Court deadlock on immigration reform, ultimately upholding a Texas court ruling that stopped Obama’s executive order putting off deportations of the undocumented parents of children who are either American citizens or legal residents.

“We have decided to come out here on a major street, First Street in Bradenton, to show our support and demand immigration reform, to send a message to our elected officials and those that are running for office currently, to let them know that we are tired of just hearing that they want immigration reform,” said UNO Executive Director Eleuterio “Junior” Salazar. “But now we are seeking that they look into the policies of what they are actually going to do.”

Salazar, who is running for mayor of Bradenton, said the group was also trying to reach those eligible to vote but not registered. A volunteer at the entrance of Acapulco registered people to vote, and also had mail-in voter registration forms available for people.

“It’s those people that are going to really make a difference in this year in the election season because we are going to have to elect officials that are truly going to represent the values within immigration reform,” Salazar said. “We cannot let (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents) fail. The president has worked extremely hard to get these programs passed. We need to keep the (Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act and a lot of these programs and that is why we are here today in Bradenton.”

Barry Cass, campaign manager for Brent King — the Lakewood Ranch democrat challenging Rep. Vern Buchanan for his seat in Congress, came out to show his support for immigration reform.

“Just seeing what Trump is doing motivated me to get involved, especially with the racism I’ve seen,” Cass said.

For Cass, from California, the issue hits close to home, he said.

“I have at least a dozen nieces and nephews who are half-Hispanic,” Cass said. “Most of my friends growing up were Hispanic.”

Debra Williams, 52, was driving down the street when she spotted the protest and was moved to join. Williams said she hates seeing how the illegal Hispanic immigrant population is made out to be criminals.

“I’m not for sending people back,” Williams said. “They are hard-working people.”

Because of fellowship at her church, Bible Baptist in Palmetto, Williams said she is inspired to stand up for the rights of others.

“I am a lover of all people,” Williams said. “And I know there are some bad people.”

For Williams, crime hit home Dec. 19 when her 27-year-old son, Kevin McCants, was called out to a black Toyota Camry in the 1000 block of 33rd Avenue East in Bradenton and shot to death. Charges were later dropped against the man arrested in her son’s death.

After the death of her son, Williams said her Hispanic neighbors came to offer her comfort.

“That’s how I knew there was unity and that’s what’s it all about,” Williams said.

Jessica De Leon: 941-745-7049, @JDeLeon1012