Protestors rally over how ID raid carried out

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Activists in Chicago's Little Village community are outraged over a raid at a neighborhood mall on Tuesday.

Federal agents carrying rifles and wearing bulletproof vests sealed off the Little Village Discount Mall. While authorities say the show of force was necessary, community activists are outraged by what they are calling a militia style raid.

"What we saw yesterday was reckless despicable. It was reckless and shameful. It was like a scene out of Bagdad. The only thing missing was a car bomb explosion," said Juan Andrade, United States Hispanic Leadership Institute.

Residents of the Little Village community said authorities locked the doors of the Discount mall, sealed the entrance and exits and rounded up of hundreds of mall shoppers, including vendors and passers-by. Agents said they were targeting a ring of criminals that sells phony social security and green cards. In a call for action, hundreds of community residents protested the raid.

"They cannot come into our community and frighten mothers with their babies going to clinics where we buy our food in the middle of the day," said Emma Lozano, activist.

"They would not do this in Marshall Fields on State Street. They wouldn't do it. Even if they knew there was an organization laundering money at some mall on the Magnificent Mile, They wouldn't go with M-16s and put all of the shoppers on the floor and handcuff them," said Jorge Mujica, activist.

"If it were State Street and this organization was operating there, and they were operating during those hours we would have done the same thing," said Elissa Brown, U.S. Immigration And Customs Enforcement

While some protestors said cracking down on fake IDs is important, they said the handling of the situation was not.

"We're not against agencies enforcing the law," said Adam Kader, Interfaith Worker Rights Center

Most of the business, except the photo shop owned by Alderman Ricardo Munoz's father that was targeted, opened on Wednesday. Marisol Chavez who works in the mall said it was frightening for pregnant women who visit the clinic in the mall.

"There were big weapons. It scared us," said Maribel Paz, another mall worker.

"Imagine what it's like to be a 5-year-old holding your mom's hand going to the clinic and all of a sudden you are surrounded by soldiers with big guns. You don't know what's going on and nobody knows. There's total fear. You're trying to put panic into the community," Virginia Martinez, activist.

Federal authorities say weapons were needed because the alleged leader of the ring was conspiring to commit violent acts. Community activists, residents, and political and religious leaders are asking for a moratorium on raids. They plan to march in the Loop on May 1.

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