As one of the most controversial immigration bills sat on Gov. Jan Brewer’s desk Tuesday, nine students sat in a Maricopa County jail.
A rally at the state Capitol to protest the immigration bill, which has been accused of encouraging racial profiling, culminated with the arrest of these nine demonstrators after they chained themselves to the capitol doors. Seven of those arrested were ASU students.
Who are the crazy ones in this situation? Not the protesters.
Because of this bill, Arizona has been criticized around the country for promoting hate-filled legislation. A New York Times editorial alleged the state Legislature had “stepped off the deep end of the immigration debate, passing a harsh and mean-spirited bill that would do little to stop illegal immigration.”
You could argue it doesn’t matter, that these proposed reforms are harsh but necessary. Or you could argue the opposite — that the measures in this bill impede civil rights and will increase the discrimination that is already visible in Arizona.
The protest on Tuesday was, for the protesters, about highlighting the ugly realities this bill would bring to the state and sending a message to the governor and legislators.
But what is significant about Tuesday’s demonstration is that the protesters cared enough about the issue to take a stand — even more so, they cared enough to get carted off to jail.
And this type of risky activism is something we haven’t seen in a while. ASU students can barely muster up a collective “Hey…” when facing the largest tuition increase in the University’s history.
Universities are supposed to be the hub of political movements. Colleges are where we have seen some of the most memorable protests in recent history.
And while students are active in a lot of issues, how many of us are willing to go to jail for what we believe? Environmental activism, for example, is a noble cause and should not be downplayed, but no one is going to arrest you for recycling your water bottle.
Chaining yourself to the Capitol in protest of a discriminatory immigration bill was done in the spirit of human rights. On a small scale, these students were willing to give up their freedom (if only for a day) for an issue that is important to them, like the protesters for Civil Rights and of the Vietnam Era.
The immigration issue is a tough one, and the intention of this bill, far from settling the debate, only serves to spark it more.
Will one protest solve the problem? No, but it was symbolic.
And when something big is at stake, this is the type of risky, passionate, nonviolent activism we need to see more of.