Apr. 10, 2006
About 12 people from Tucson-based Border Guardians burned a Mexican flag Sunday on the sidewalk in front of the Mexican Consulate. They carried a sign that read, "Defending American Sovereignty."
Group members spoke out against proposed immigration laws and blamed the Mexican government for the number of illegal immigrants who enter the United States through Arizona, the busiest illegal entry point along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Before igniting the flag, group members recited the Pledge of
As the flag's embers fell, they cheered and shouted, "Long live George Washington!" and "God bless America!"
The burning follows weeks of controversy surrounding the Mexican flag, which has been flown at immigrant rights protests across the country. In March, a group of students at Apache Junction High School burned a Mexican flag after a group of Hispanic students raised it on a flagpole.
The school subsequently banned students from wearing flags of any kind, but school officials went back on that decision after parent complaints.
Elsewhere in the country, schools in Colorado and California moved to ban flags after tensions there rose between white and Hispanic students.
Sunday's flag burning is likely the first in a series of burnings, said members of Border Guardians.
"Anytime they take to the streets, we'll burn a Mexican flag," said Laine Lawless, director of the Border Guardians and organizer of Sunday's flag burning.
"This is a symbolic act," said Roy Warden, who helped ignite the flag.
Warden questioned the patriotism of protesters who carried Mexican flags during immigrant rights rallies across the country in the past couple of weeks.
"We felt that when people are taking to the streets, it was an assertion of Mexican sovereignty," he said. "Today we are defending American sovereignty."
Before dousing the flag in lighter fluid, Warden read several statements blaming the Mexican government and members of Congress for not providing more enforcement along the border.
He also said Mexicans are being exploited by the "Spanish-descended elite of Mexico" and should revolt against the Mexican government.
A few people showed up to oppose the flag burning.
"It hurts to see what they did," said Liz Moreno, 30, who watched the burning with several of her family members.
Members of the American Civil Liberties Union attended the burning and a couple of other onlookers shouted arguments against the Border Guardians.
Police made no arrests.
The Mexican Consulate was closed, and calls to the office were not returned.