El Paso Times on the Justicia Protest

In search of justice: Protest focuses on border shooting of teen

Posted: 06/23/2010 12:00:00 AM MDT

Video: Protest by Border Patrol offices
›› Photo gallery: Protest by Border Patrol offices

EL PASO — Protesters on Tuesday afternoon momentarily stopped traffic on Montana Avenue to bring attention to the fatal shooting of a Juárez teen by a U.S. Border Patrol agent.

The protesters, carrying 5-foot-tall signs spelling out J-U-S-T-I-C-E, blocked traffic near Border Patrol offices for only about a minute in what they said was a necessary protest to keep pressure on authorities over the controversial shooting.

A few El Paso police officers kept watch. Officers briefly spoke with organizers after traffic was blocked. There were no arrests.

About 300 people lined a sidewalk across the street from a Border Patrol building, chanting in Spanish and English and waving U.S. flags and signs condemning the shooting.

It was the largest demonstration in El Paso since the death of 15-year-old Sergio Adrián Hernández Güereca, who on June 7 was shot during a rock-throwing

incident along the Rio Grande near the Paso del Norte Bridge.Hernandez died on the Mexico side of the river.

The agent, whose name has not been released, was on the U.S. side.

The death sparked international debate. Mexican government officials criticized the shooting as excessive force, while supporters of the agent said he was defending himself while arresting another man.

It is unclear whether Hernandez threw rocks himself.

A homicide investigation is being conducted by the Mexican attorney general’s office, and the FBI has a civil-rights inquiry into the case.

The teen’s family wants the agent tried in Mexico, but U.S. legal experts said it is unlikely that the agent would be extradited.

“Asesinos uniformados, que sean encarcelados,” chanted protesters, translated as “Uniformed assassins should be jailed.”

The protest was the second organized by the Border Network for Human Rights, a regional immigrants rights group. The first protest on June 9 had about 70 people in Downtown El Paso.

Fernando Garcia, director of the organization, said there is anger at the Border Patrol because people feel the agency is not being open about the shooting.

“There was a distrust, and it’s at the lowest ever at this point,”

Magdalena Esparza chants into a megaphone as she protests with members of the Border Network for Human Rights Tuesday across Montana Ave. from the Border Patrol headquarters. The protest was in response to the shooting of 15-year-old Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca by a Border Patrol Agent. (Mark Lambie / El Paso Times)

Garcia said.Hernandez’s death comes at a time of tension on the U.S.-Mexico border over several issues, including the death of a Mexican citizen after he was arrested by U.S. authorities in the San Diego area and Arizona’s anti-illegal-immigration law.

El Pasoan Olga Juarez, an U.S. citizen, was protesting because she feels that Hernandez’s death, even if he was throwing rocks, was unjust.

“No one has the right to take a human life,” she said. “When a Mexican person commits a crime, they are extradited. He (the agent) killed him on the Mexico side and should be extradited. Just because I’m a citizen doesn’t mean I don’t support people who aren’t.”

But not everyone agreed. Charles Ybarra, 26, was riding a bicycle past the demonstration when he stopped to ask a reporter what it was about.

“Wasn’t he (Hernandez) throwing rocks?” Ybarra said. “That’s what you get for doing stupid (stuff). I think the guy (Border Patrol agent) did all right.”

Daniel Borunda may be reached at dborunda@elpasotimes.com;546-6102.

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