Two groups, one for and one against the increased local Border Patrol presence and the agents' tactics, found their signs a bit waterlogged March 7 after several hours of standing in the cold, wet weather.
Their positions, one on each end of town, reflected with their opposite reactions.
The rally formed to oppose Border Patrol activities was part of a larger movement to march for International Women's Day. About 50 people crowded each corner of the Washington Street and Sequim Avenue intersection to wave signs and sing songs of protest.
At the opposite end of Washington Street where it intersects Priest Road, about 150 people gathered as part of a Minuteman Civil Defense Corps rally to support the federal agents.
The Border Patrol increased its agent presence in the area from four to 24 within two years, started performing random checkpoints to stop every vehicle passing through specified points on U.S. Highway 101 and boarding public and private buses to speak with passengers and check their citizenship.
The agency plans to build a large complex with a temporary detention center in the Port Angeles area.
Signs of opinion
Minuteman members and others waved signs that read "Illegal Aliens are Illegal" and "Support U.S. Border Patrol."
Roger Brown, a seven-year Sequim resident, said he isn't a Minuteman but he wants to make sure the public knows he supports the Border Patrol.
"Basically, at age 71, I'm concerned about the safety of our country, especially through the illegal drug trade," he said, indicating he would sit through two roadblocks a week if they stemmed the flow of drugs.
"I've heard negative reactions to their activities. I don't understand. (The agents) are the ones in danger, putting themselves in the fight to make sure our country is safe."
Others spoke out against illegal immigrants taking jobs away from Americans.
Those gathered in central Sequim allege the department's agents go out of their way to profile Hispanics and stop citizens without probable cause while leaving points of entry on the peninsula unsecured.
They waved signs that read "Stop the Harassment of Legal and Illegal Immigrants" and "Stop the Raids and Deportations," among others.
"I think these checkpoints are scary and can really be compared with the systematic removal of civil rights," said Larry Mills, who drove up from Olympia for the rally organized by the Stop the Checkpoints Committee and the ACLU.
"I'm a bit enamored with my rights. This is America, we are Americans and there is no need to stop us and ask for our papers without cause."
Each demonstration lasted for several hours in the snow, sleet and rain, with motorists giving honks and shouts of support or disagreement.
The Minutemen are not new to the border dialogue, but the March 7 rally marks the group's first big showing in Sequim since the Border Patrol's increased activities on the North Olympic Peninsula.
Minutemen member and rally organizer Hal Washburn, of Olalla in Kitsap County, said he didn't want to have a minority interest group setting the tone of demonstrations in the area.
"We felt we really needed to respond to that area because of the increased dialogue regarding Border Patrol," he said. "We just want to make sure (Border Patrol agents) know they are still supported even though these groups don't see it that way."
He said anyone is welcome to join the Minuteman group and directed those interested to start the process online at www.borderops.com.
Those opposing the Border Patrol checkpoints include the American Civil Liberties Union.
The ACLU has created a video to portray its take as well as the opinion of several in the Sequim and Port Townsend area on the Border Patrol's tactics. It is available at www.vimeo.com/3212730.
The ACLU has funded placement of advertisements inside public buses in Jefferson County advising people of their rights if stopped by a Border Patrol agent.
Border Patrol checkpoints have led to the arrest and deportation of more than a dozen illegal immigrants on the Olympic Peninsula and the arrest of several American citizens with warrants out for their arrest.
Congressman Norm Dicks, who represents the North Peninsula, has sent a letter to new Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano asking her to seriously review the effectiveness of the Border Patrol in the area.
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