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Report: 'Social Justice' Group Gets Physical With UT Immigration Bill Supporters


"They're trying to sell fear to people."

Guttierez (L) and Picardi (R) talk with Troopers after being pulled away from a physical alteraction at an immigration bill rally. (Photo: Francisco Kjolseth, Salt Lake Tribune)

Members of a social justice group got into a heated, and physical, argument with supporters of a controversial Utah Immigration bill at the Capitol building in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.

During a rally yesterday, Sam Rangel of the group United for Social Justice (USJ) began heckling state Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, author of a controversial Arizona-style immigration bill. When a supporter of the bill yelled back at Rangel, the argument quickly turned physical. News cameras from KLS-TV caught part of the altercation:

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"It's just a theater puppet show," Rangel told KLS. "They're trying to sell fear to people." The "they" included Rep. Chris Herrod, also a bill supporter, and Arturo Morales-Llan, a legal immigrant and a Latino member of the Utah Coalition on Illegal Immigration who also supports the bill.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Melodia Gutierrez, also of United for Social Justice, and Michael Picardi, of the Progressive Coalition of Utah, were ushered away by Highway Patrol troopers. While neither was arrested, Troopers said they were trying to separate and calm emotional people.

Gutierrez, co-director of USJ, told the Tribune she was trying to shield a friend who was being bumped by protesters, and Picardi said he stepped in by tapping on the shoulder of a man who was bumping Gutierrez, "and he started yelling that I was assaulting him."

United for Social Justice calls itself "a band of misfits" with a vision for "Equality and social justice." The group opposes the Arizona immigration bill (SB 1070), the similarly-styled Utah immigration bill, and supports "full equality in wages, jobs, voting, union rights, benefits, housing, health care, and education," as well as "full legalization" for, illegal aliens.

The group's website includes a quote by Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara explaining that "the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love."

Like Arizona's immigration bill this summer, Sandstorm's bill requires law officers to verify the legal status of any person they stop if "reasonable suspicion" exists that they are in the country illegally.

The bill is opposed by a group of faith and political leaders who signed a document called the Utah Compact. Signers, the Tribune says, "include high-powered civic and religious groups, including the LDS Church."

"That compact opposes immigration policies that unnecessarily separate families through deportation; says immigration is a federal - not state - issue; favors focusing resources on criminal and not civil issues (in which it classifies illegal immigration); and calls for civil dialogue on the issue," the paper explains.

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Sandstorm isn't detered.

"Contrary to what you may have heard in recent days, my bill, the Utah Immigration Enforcement Act, is alive and well," he said at the rally. "This bill will become law in the state of Utah."

View more photos of the event here and here.

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