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Sixty-year-old Leonor Mason chimes in: "My grandsons and their friends come home for summer vacation and there are no jobs for them. At night, you walk in the neighborhood — it's frightening. [The immigrants] urinate by the clock tower! At CVS, my God, they just loiter — it's hurting their business. They're shoplifting. Go in TJ Maxx, Ross — you don't have room to walk anymore."
Joseph Henry Timlin Jr., a master tile setter — "28 years in the trade, baby" — says he went to El Sol to find day work. "I thought I had a good chance." He says he took a number but didn't get hired. Like most of the protesters, he is white. He wishes more African-Americans would join the protesters' cause. If a white woman wanted to try going through the raffle process at El Sol, Timlin says, "Come armed, and bring your boyfriend. Illegal aliens commit a lot of rapes."
Marine Bob gets a kick out of the time he called the cops on a Mexican restaurant that was flying the Mexican flag withoutflying an American one in a position of superior prominence — a violation of U.S. Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 7, Paragraph C, he recites. The cops, he said, made the restaurant fold up its flag.
Almost every time the light turns red and cars back up at the intersection, the protesters get at least one honk of support. Sometimes people chime, "Get 'em out of here!" or "Better days are coming!"
Less frequently, people argue: "Racist! I respect hard-working people better than you!" One passerby shouts out the window: "Oh yeah — you guys were all on the Mayflower! You're all fuckin' idiots."
It's about 11:30 a.m. when four giggling teenagers suddenly jump through the bushes carrying signs that say "I [Heart] Immigrants," "Buck Fush," and "Deport Yourself — You're an Immigrant Too."
"We are brothers!" shouts the only boy, 17-year-old Eric Lankford. He runs through the crowd of protesters and leans toward the windows of passing cars. "The melting pot is boiling over!" he wails, then bursts into laughter. His three female friends giggle and raise their signs high in the air.
This is something the protesters didn't count on: counterprotesters. Teenaged nihilists. Provocateurs who question everything.
"Shut up, you piece of junk, piece of trash," mutters John Barber, in his jean shorts.
"You hate your own family!" cries Lankford, jumping up and down.
"Speak for yourself, idiot," Barber says.
"I think that guy's got a problem," Marianne Bonsignor says worriedly.
"Everyone here is for Satan!" Lankford yells at cars, laughing.
"You're jumping around like a nut," Bonsignor says.
"They're radicals," John Parsons mumbles dismissively, trying not to take the bait.
"Hooray for communism!" Lankford shouts.
"If I had a son like that...," Bonsignor gasps. "He's got a brown sock and a black sock — is that weird or what?"
The protesters leapfrog the counterprotesters to get the more visible spot on the sidewalk. The counterprotesters leapfrog them. And so it goes, until the cops walk over.
Barber and another protester grill two of the girls about their beliefs. They admit that they don't know that much about illegal immigration and that they tagged along because they were bored. "You are talking like a little girl," Barber says condescendingly. "Educate yourself." She folds an arm across her chest as though embarrassed.
Lankford continues to jump and shout, waving a sign that says, "You can't be a pimp and a prostitute too!"
"It's better illegals get hired than idiots like you," Barber grumbles.
Eighteen-year-old Sarah O'Connor stands her ground as the protesters try to convince her that they are saving the jobs of her family and her generation. She knows better; she's president of Amnesty International at her high school. "The pilgrims weren't legal," she says. She believes the protesters' claims are bunk. Kids her age work at movie theaters, not at jobs based on physical labor, and she's never seen gang violence at her school. Most of her peers have gotten along fine with incoming immigrant students. "We're all cool with it," she says.
Bonsignor approaches the cops. "I don't think they should be permitted to use those signs," she states.
"Freedom of speech, ma'am," the officer replies.
"Yeah, but it's nasty speech." She herself has been holding a sign that says "Secure the Border" all day, but any irony is lost on her.
As the two groups — all white — crowd the sidewalk, a Hispanic male comes cruising down the lane on his bicycle. He looks oblivious to the fracas around him — and quite possibly about him.
He pedals by unfazed, headphones from his iPod tucked into his ears.