Hundreds of signs were sprawled inside Miami Dade College’s Kendall campus Monday afternoon for Jeb Bush’s presidential announcement. On one side they read “¡Jeb! 2016” and on the other “#TodosPorJeb." But 20 minutes into Jeb’s big announcement, it became clear that todos were not por Jeb.
In a single row atop the stage-right balcony, 27 protesters were perched inconspicuously among the crowd of sign-waving Jeb supporters. They were so undercover that one even answered a New Times reporter's questions in disguise, claiming to be a Jeb backer “because he let me come in here.”
They waited almost an hour and half for their moment, when they stood in unison with shirts reading: “Legal status is not enough!” The group briefly interrupted Jeb's big moment, before security escorted them out and the crowd drowned out their chants with their own yells of "USA! USA!"
As they were being escorted out, Maira, one of the group's coordinators, said, “We were waiting for him to talk about immigration” before starting the protests. But that moment never came. Bush briefly reminded the crowd of his support of Israel and then returned his focus on his previous experience with education reform.
That's when one protester had enough. She started shouting and almost 20 minutes into Jeb’s announcement all 27 stood up. They took off their shirts to expose neon green shirts that spelled out “Legal status is not enough!” Then began chanting “I am somebody and I deserve full equality right here, right now” and “My mother is somebody who deserves full equality” and “My father is somebody who deserves free equality.”
The group complained that Bush's campaign promises didn't address immigration reform, and noted that more than 11 million undocumented people live in America.
“He didn’t make a clear statement about immigration,” Mariana Martinez, a 20-year-old protester, later explained. “Our goal is to go into every campaigning candidate event and make it clear immigration reform is an issue. We want citizenship and not just a legal status. And we plan to go to both parties, too.”
The disruptive group was comprised of undocumented immigrants and residents and citizens with undocumented loved ones. They were of all ages from nine-year-olds to senior citizens, but the majority were college-aged students from countries like Mexico, Honduras, Haiti, Argentina, Brazil, El Salvador and Guatemala.
Their moment lasted less than a minute, until security came and escorted them outside. They were pushed from audience members behind them, calling them “malagradecida” and some yelling, “let’s get rid of you” and “Go back to your country.” One particularly passionate Jeb supporter followed the group out and stood on top of the stairs yelling in Spanish at them. (Although one woman, standing quietly in the back row, held up a bumper sticker that read “No more Bushit” and smiled and waved as the protesters were ushered out.)
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Within seconds as their chanting had subsided and Bush regained center stage, he announced: “The next president of the United States will pass meaningful immigration reform that will be solved not by executive order.”
But by then, the herd of protesters could barely hear him. Instead, they were lead out onto the sidewalk along 104th Street, where they stood in so their shirts again spelled their message as rush hour traffic rolled past, a few even honking in support.
Afterwards, they huddled in a circle, where one protester (a recent graduate of MDC) announced “La acción fue perfecta” (The action was perfect). The group then cheered, covered their bright neon letters, and returned to the throng of Jeb supporters to head in their separate ways.
“We must love each other and protect each other,” another said in parting.