March 16, 2015 / Modified mar 17, 2015 9:55 a.m.

Trial Begins for Immigration Activists Who Stopped Buses

Charges are misdemeanors, including disorderly conduct, obstructing governmental operations.

3.16.15 Operation Streamline Trial Protest Spot
Fernanda Echavarri, AZPM

Listen:

Trial began Monday in Tucson for a dozen protesters who stopped two buses carrying undocumented immigrants to federal court in 2013.

The activists face Pima County Justice Court misdemeanor charges, including criminal trespassing, obstruction of government operations, resisting arrest and hindering prosecution in the second degree.

Eighteen people were arrested Oct. 11, 2013 after a group of immigrant rights activists stopped two buses taking 70 suspected undocumented immigrants to federal court for Operation Streamline, a fast-track, mass deportation proceeding.

“Our obligation as Americans is to hold our government accountable,” Margo Cowan, a public defender and activist lawyer representing the group told the judge Monday. “This is not just a collection of petty offenses, it’s not just an inconvenience. It’s something much greater.”

Protesters blocked the westbound Interstate 10 frontage road near 18th Street, stopping the two buses in the roadway.

Twelve people used their bodies to prevent the buses from moving. In groups of three, people encircled the bus tires with their bodies and cylindrical tubes with their arms inside. Other protesters held signs denouncing Operation Streamline. Some of them were also arrested.

The Tucson Police Department closed the frontage road for several hours and used power tools to cut off the plastic pipes and other materials protesters used to tie themselves to each other.

Deputy County Attorneys Sabrina Lochner and Rebecca Mueller brought law enforcement officials to the witness stand Monday and the two bus drivers.

The trial will continue Tuesday.

Watch the video from the protest in 2013

(VIDEO: Fernanda Echavarri)
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