Operation Streamline protesters found guilty
Activists who blocked the federal courthouse in Tucson during an October 2013 protest against the fast-track immigration court held there have been found guilty by a federal judge.
Six people were found guilty on two counts, each with a maximum sentence of 30 days. U.S. District Magistrate Judge Leslie A. Bowman signed the decision Thursday, and it was filed Friday morning.
The charges stemmed from an Oct. 11, 2013, protest in which the group chained themselves together in the driveway of the Evo A. DeConcini Courthouse in downtown Tucson.
That morning, the group sat in front of the driveway wearing yellow shirts that read "Shut Down Streamline" and chained themselves together using dragon sleeves—a plastic pipe covering their arms — making it nearly difficult for federal officers to break them apart.
The driveway is the only entrance for vehicles at the courthouse and the protesters blocked deliveries, prisoner transport and kept judges and other court employees from being able to leave the parking lot.
All six stayed until around 1 p.m. when they left voluntarily after court officials announced that Streamline hearings were canceled for the day.
Each was detained, cited and released.
Wendy Bedoya, Sandra Garnica, Katerina O. Sinclair, Walter E. Staton, Ryan Tombleson and Rachel L. Winch were found guilty for Disorderly Conduct on Federal Property and Failure to Follow the Direction of a Federal Police Officer.
Attorney Jeff Rogers argued that the federal government failed to prove its case. Two of the federal officers who acted as witnesses provided evidence during testimony that the protesters were told they were on federal property, but did not include that information in their original reports.
"We're disappointed and don't believe the government proved its case as evidenced by the fact that none of the officers who testified included any of the elements of the offenses in their police reports. It was only on the day of trial that they first 'remembered' the facts that were not included in any of their reports," he said Friday.
Margo Cowan, an attorney for one of the defendants, said she was disappointed in the judgment.
"Our clients were exercising their constitutional rights when they acted to stop our government's shameful criminalization of mothers and fathers in the program known as Streamline," Cowan said. "We will not rest until this horrific program is shutdown forever and our clients are exonerated of all wrong doing."
Blocking the driveway at the federal courthouse was part of a two-pronged protest to shut down Operation Streamline for the day.
A few blocks away, on the Interstate 10 frontage road, a second group managed to stop two federally-operated buses carrying around 70 people slated for immigration hearings at the court.
This second group used the same dragon-sleeves to chain themselves around the tires of each bus. Tucson Police Department officers sawed the sleeves apart. All 18 protesters in that group were arrested that day.
Implemented in Tucson in 2008, the controversial Streamline program fast-tracks each day as many as 100 prosecutions of those suspected of being in the country illegally. Some critics have called the program, in which defendants plead guilty in large groups, "assembly-line justice."
Sentencing for the six protesters is set for Oct. 15.
The second group of protesters have not been given a court date.