Local News

Wednesday, Nov 06 2013 02:48 PM

Protesters stage sit-in at McCarthy's office

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Thirteen women were allowed to stay in the lobby of Congressman Kevin McCarthy's office in Bakersfield after the office closed one evening in November. The women had vowed not to leave the office until McCarthy met with them and listened to their demands for immigration reform. After the office closed, the protesters were allowed to stay in the lobby where two BPD officers were stationed.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Thirteen women protesting for immigration reform inside the lobby of Congressman Kevin McCarty's office attempt to communicate through a window with their supporters who are outside the office Wednesday night. The protesters were allowed to stay after the office's 5 p.m. closing time. They had expected to be arrested for not leaving the office at closing time but were willing to be arrested if Congressman McCarthy did not meet with them.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Miriam Burbano, one of 13 women protesting inside the lobby of Congressman Kevin McCarthy's office for immigration reform, pokes her head out the door to rally supporters outside the office Wednesday. The women wanted to meet with Congressman McCarthy and had vowed to stay in the office until he spoke to them. After the office closed Wednesday, they were allowed to stay in the lobby and continue waiting.

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  4. 4 of 5

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Women for immigration reform protest loudly inside Congressman Kevin McCarthy's office in Bakersfield Wednesday.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Women protesting for immigration reform in Congressman Kevin McCarthy's office hug as closing time nears and assume they will be arrested when they refuse to leave the office when it closes.

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A late-night immigration sit-in at the office of Bakersfield Congressman Kevin McCarthy ended late Wednesday after he met with the protesters sometime before midnight.

The conversation, which capped off a full day of protest — and wildly different takes of how the night unfolded — apparently didn’t sway McCarthy, the No. 3 leader among House Republicans, to their side in the immigration debate.

McCarthy spokesman Vince Fong released a statement Thursday morning saying:

“Congressman McCarthy remains undeterred toward reforming our broken immigration system, and will continue to listen to his constituents — and not the protests and threats of outside special interest groups — as he works with his House colleagues towards a step-by-step approach."

The protesters have been calling for House Republicans to put legislation containing comprehensive immigration reform to a vote the way the U.S. Senate has. McCarthy advocates for a piecemeal approach that starts with border security.

That’s not all the two sides disagree on. They had different descriptions Thursday of what happened Wednesday night when about 13 women who were keeping a day-long protest going vowed to stay in the lobby area of McCarthy’s southwest Bakersfield office until he’d meet with them — even if it was overnight.

"A group of activists, mainly from the Los Angeles area, decided to occupy Congressman Kevin McCarthy’s office yesterday, demanding that the congressman sign their immigration pledge. Despite repeated requests to have them move their protest to a public area outside so that our office could provide services to constituents, their intent instead was to disrupt the activities and services of the office," the release from spokesman Fong said.

It went on to say: "Congressman McCarthy has met with these groups and has listened to their arguments, and it is unfortunate that these groups have resorted to these type of tactics, during, and long after, business hours.”

A spokeswoman for the United Farm Workers of America, Maria Machuca, issued a statement insinuating the protesters were the ones being mistreated.

"The women had refused to leave his office and were locked inside the congressman office with Bakersfield police officers watching the door," it said.

According to Bakersfield Police Sgt. Will McNeal, McCarthy’s office staff asked the police to close the Empire Drive office lobby at 5 p.m. Wednesday, but not to remove the protesters.

McNeal said the staff told him it did not want any food in the lobby.

McNeal said the 13 women, who appeared to range widely in age, were free to eat and take any of their medications — but only outside the office. Once leaving, they would not be allowed back in.

Earlier in the day, as many as 200 people demonstrated for immigration reform and vowed to do so until Republican House leadership brings an immigration bill to a House vote.

The demonstrators, many from Los Angeles, were part of protests in a dozen other states also targeting GOP leaders.

Those in Bakersfield said they would risk jail if necessary. Local attorney H.A. Sala was on hand with them.

McCarthy, the House majority whip, was not present during the protests during the day, although he was in Bakersfield all day Wednesday.

In addition to the UFW, others participating in the protest represented the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, Services Immigrant Rights and Education Network, and We Belong Together.



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