Nineteen people, many of them clergy, were arrested today after sitting in the middle of Seventh Street in San Francisco during a rally for immigration reform.
The rally, organized by the SF Bay Area Coalition for Immigration Reform, brought more than 100 people outside the San Francisco Federal Building at 90 7th St. to call on Congress to pass an immigration reform bill, coalition spokesman Jon Rodney said.
Shortly before 5 p.m., a pre-planned act of civil disobedience began as more than a dozen people, mostly local religious leaders, walked onto Seventh Street and sat down, blocking traffic.
Police, who had been notified of the group’s plans in advance, began arresting people about 15 minutes later when the crowd ignored orders to disperse.
Police spokesman Officer Samson Chan said the protesters were taken to a nearby facility, where they were cited for failing to obey a lawful order and blocking the roadway.
He said all 19 were cited and released by about 6:15 p.m.
San Francisco supervisors David Chiu and David Campos were among several speakers at the rally prior to the civil disobedience.
Chiu said the rally represented “the beautiful mosaic that is San Francisco,” and said the city looks out for its immigrants.
Campos said San Francisco’s congressional representative, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “has her heart in the right place” on the issue of immigration, but that “even people with their heart in the right place sometimes need a little push.”
Many speakers celebrated the partial injunction issued today by a federal judge that blocks many of the main provisions of Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070.
SB 1070 requires police, “when practicable,” to determine the immigration status of people they reasonably suspect to be in the country illegally.
Despite the injunction, Campos said SB 1070 “remains a bad law” and is another reason why “we need the federal government to act.”
The law drew widespread condemnation from immigration and civil rights advocates when it was passed in April, and many elected officials, including President Obama, have openly opposed it.
The U.S. Department of Justice filed a complaint earlier this month challenging the constitutionality of the law, and today U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton agreed to an injunction that blocks key provisions of the law.
The law will still go into effect Thursday without those provisions, which include requiring police officers to determine the immigration status of a person detained and arrested; making it a crime for people to not carry alien registration papers; and making it a crime for an unauthorized alien to solicit, apply for or perform work.
Rally organizers are urging Congress to pass the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act, also called the DREAM Act, which would create a pathway to citizenship for young immigrants who enlist in the military or attend college.
Rodney said rally organizers are also calling for a halt to collaborations between local law enforcement and U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement officials, such as those created by the Secure Communities program, which San Francisco began implementing last month.
The program is active in a number of other counties in California, including Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano and Sonoma counties. Those programs lead to the deportation of about 1,100 immigrants nationwide every day, according to the coalition.
Photo: Bay City News