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Demonstrators plan indefinite protests at East Side's Mexican Consulate
Submitted by plarkin on Mon, 09/22/2014 - 12:00am
Hoping to raise awareness for Marine vet arrested in Mexico
Holding American Flags and signs saying "Boycott Mexico" and "Free Andrew," a group of mostly suburban protesters have been gathering every Thursday morning at the Mexican Counsulate on East Seventh Street.
Cars can be heard honking constantly as they pass the group.
They're there protesting the arrest of U.S. Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi who is being held in Mexico after illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border with three firearms.
The group protesting outside the St. Paul consulate follows a pattern of groups across the country conducting similar protests.
Many facts of the case remain hazy, but one thing's clear: these protesters want him freed and brought back to the United States, and they don't plan on stopping their protests until he's free.
A petition filed via the White House calling for his release has secured around 135,000 signatures.
The petition states Tahmooressi is a two-tour veteran with a Purple Heart award and that he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. It also claims the firearms were legally purchased, and asserts that Tahmooressi's border crossing was inadvertent.
He was arrested in Mexico on April 1, 2014 and has been held since.
The Obama administration responded to the petition, saying the administration respects the rule of law in Mexico and that the U.S. government will continue to monitor the situation to make sure Tahmooressi is treated fairly.
The White House response said that high-ranking U.S. officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry have been in dialogue with Mexico over the issue.
"We will continue to monitor the case and work with the Mexican authorities as this case proceeds through the Mexican judicial system," the response states. "We continue to urge the Mexican authorities to process this case expeditiously."
But that response isn't good enough for protester Patricia Boyd Peerson of St. Paul, a parishioner at Fort Snelling Memorial Chapel at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Bloomington.
During an interview last week, she complained that "(Mexicans) cross here with guns all the time," adding that,"(Tahmooressi) is being treated like a criminal."
She's helps organize the group of protesters, and said they plan to continue protesting every week until he is released. If it's not done by Nov. 11, Veteran's Day, they'll have a mass, daylong rally, she said.
Jim Brunsgaard from Hastings, a U.S. Navy veteran who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom, said he shows up to protest in support of another veteran.
"He just made a mistake," he said of Tahmooressi, criticizing the Obama administration for not doing more to get him out of prison.
John Kruse of Richfield has been showing up for every protest at the consulate.
Last Thursday he was holding a sign that said "Boycott Mexico" with the word Cancun crossed out below.
He explained his sign didn't mean he had anything against Mexicans. Rather, the sign was his way of telling people to forego vacationing there. If people boycott popular winter destinations in Mexico, he predicted it would put economic pressure on the Mexican government and potentially hasten Tahmooressi's release from Mexico's El Hongo prison.
"Tell people to choose the Bahamas, or somewhere else ... Florida," he said.
He did concede that there is a "minor case" against the man.
"We have to let their justice system run through," he said, but added that he wants more pressure put on the U.S. and Mexican governments.
"If Ronald Reagan were in charge," he said, "we would've had someone on the phone every day until he was out of there."
Obama is "making a statement by his inaction," he contended.
When Peerson was asked whether she thought the Thursday protests might make people coming to the consulate uncomfortable, she said she thought that was unlikely. And if it did, so be it, she added.
"This is our country; this is our flag," she said. "We allow them here."
She also pondered aloud: "How many people going in there are even legal citizens?"
Alberto Fierro, head consul at the Mexican Consulate, said the protesters haven't caused too much of a disturbance for patrons and staff at the East Side building.
"They are in the absolute right to protest," he said. "There's not much that we can do."
He added that protesters have been very respectful, and haven't done anything to perturb visitors to the consulate.
He said he was somewhat concerned about the growing number of protesters who show up every week.
Fierro asserted that Tahmooressi "has had an adequate legal defense" in the Mexican courts.
Beyond that, he said Tahmooressi has been in close contact with the U.S. Consulate in Mexico, and has received medical attention and visits from family members.
The U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs has scheduled a meeting to discuss Tahmooressi's case. The meeting, scheduled Wednesday, Oct. 1, is titled "Sergeant Andrew Tahmooressi: Our Marine in Mexican Custody."
Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.
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