More than 100 gather against checkpoints

They are worried the North Olympic Peninsula is becoming a police state.

About 150 protesters gathered in Port Angeles at a Sept. 20 protest just five days after about 100 people gathered in Forks to speak out on the same subject - U.S. Customs and Border Protection checkpoints on the peninsula.

The traffic stops are an extension of a longtime presence at the international ferry terminal in downtown Port Angeles and have resulted in 25 arrests, 15 of which were for alleged illegal immigration into the country while the rest were for minor drug violations or standing warrants.

Customs and Border Protection spokesmen have indicated the checkpoints are within their jurisdiction, 100 miles from the border, and are a part of their effort to catch terrorists, instruments of terror and drug activity.

But as Border Patrol deputy chief patrol agent Joe Guiliano indicated in the past, "If we do find ourselves in a situation where we find an illegal immigrant from Mexico, Canada or any other country, we will not ignore the fact."

Many protesters, however, chanted that the agency has gone too far, targeting those who may appear to be from another country. Megaphones and cardboard signs called the checkpoints a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which protects citizens from unreasonable search and seizure, which is why officials need probable cause in order to receive a search warrant from the judicial system.

"I have been stopped and I've known many of those who were stopped and taken away from their home and forced to leave their families behind," said Layla Iranshad of Forks. "This is a step in a dangerous direction and is already causing dire consequences in our community."

The protest was organized by a newly formed coalition, the Stop the Checkpoints Committee. The group gathered around the Federal Building in downtown Port Angeles where many people affected by the stops gave first-hand testimony of losing family members to deportation, being victims of fraud from immigration attorneys and being singled out in checkpoints because of an accent or their skin color.

After the rally, the group marched through downtown Port Angeles and past the Clallam County Courthouse to U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks' office on East Fifth Street, across from the Port Angeles City Hall.

Standing on the steps of the office, Paul Richmond, a Port Townsend man once a candidate for Dicks' job, called for the group to contact their legislators.

Dicks, D-Belfair, is on the House Committee on Homeland Security.

According to authorities, the protest went peacefully.

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