Save Our State (SOS) is an activist organization opposed to illegal immigration in Southern California. The group also has a chapter in Northern California. It was granted 501(c)(3) non-profit status in late 2005.
The group takes its name from California's 1994 Proposition 187
, known as the "Save Our State" initiative. The proposition, which would have denied health care and education to illegal immigrant residents of California, was approved by a majority of voters in 1994 but was immediately challenged in court and was eventually struck down by a US district court
four years later.
The group was incorporated in July 2004 by Ventura resident Joseph Turner, who was unsatisfied with the existing immigration-reform groups whose letter-writing campaigns he deemed ineffectual. In an interview, Turner stated, "Our belief is that if that worked or had any sort of positive influence, we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in." In contrast, SOS's tactics are statedly "aggressive", and "in-your-face". Their language reflects this, intentionally eschewing what they perceive to be the political correctness that characterized the language of the 1990s. In the opinion of Turner and many of his supporters, political correctness and multiculturalism are both factors that contribute to the continued entry of illegal aliens into the United States.
Activities and tactics
SOS's first campaign was in December 2004, when, after launching a website with a forum, they announced a boycott of Home Depot for funding day labor centers on or near their store locations. Later, in the spring of 2005, SOS protested billboards advertising KRCA-TV's Spanish-language newscast that displayed the Mexico City landmark Angel of Independence in the center of the Los Angeles skyline. Accompanying text read "Los Angeles,
CA Mexico. Tu Ciudad. Tu Equipo." ("Your city. Your newsteam.") Reports vary as to whether or not the protests had any effect on their removal. SOS has continued protesting against Home Depot, day-laborer hiring sites, and even works of art they view as reflecting a mentality that encourages illegal immigration.
The underlying philosophy of the protests is referred to by Turner as "the transference of pain", a tactic for which he credits his wife. In Turner's words,
Baldwin Park I
The group's next action provoked a great deal of controversy. SOS protested the monumental artwork Danzas Indigenas
at the Metrolink
station in Baldwin Park, California
. The work, commissioned by the city and designed by UCLA professor
artist, and SPARC
founder Judy Baca
with community input, featured several inscriptions on Mission
-style arches, two of which drew the ire of anti-illegal immigration activists. A quote from the Chicana writer Gloria Anzaldua
reads, "This land was Mexican once, was Indian always and is, and will be again." The other read "It was better before they came." About the first quote, Turner stated, "It's seditious. It essentially talks about returning this land to Mexico." About the second quote, which Baca states was actually uttered by a white
Baldwin Park resident lamenting the influx of Mexicans after World War II
, Baca has stated that it is deliberately ambiguous to allow the viewer's interpretation of "they" to reveal something about the viewer. SOS claims the referent of "they" is "white people".
On May 14, 2005, approximately 40 members of Save Our State held signs in front of the monument. Hundreds of counterprotesters also showed up, shouting such slogans as "Racists go home" and displaying the flag of Mexico when squaring off against the American flags carried by Save Our State.
Police in riot gear were called in from several neighboring departments to maintain a wall of separation between the groups. In the day's only incident of physical violence, an SOS protester, a sixty-six year old Minuteman Project volunteer named Laura D. "Dottie" Dalton, was hit in the head by a water bottle lobbed from area of the counterprotesting crowd. She was held overnight for observation but was released the next day.
The event was covered in local newspapers, as well as by writers for the Los Angeles Independent Media Center
, and in broadcast media by KPFK
's Uprising and What's Right With America (WRWA), a conservative public access talk show in Santa Barbara, California
. National conservative websites such as World Net Daily
picked up the story after viewing footage posted on WRWA's website.
The most shocking footage was of Martinez, who, wearing a turban, made such statements as "Viva Zarqawi
, the gringo killer!".
The SOS website also experienced heavy traffic, with supporters and detractors alike registering thousands of opinions.
In an interview, Turner stated,
Baldwin Park Mayor Manuel Lozano has publicly defended the language of the monument as a work of art, therefore free expression, and has demonstrated his support for counterprotesting organizations with "handshake walk" among their ranks. He has publicly described Save Our State as a 'hate group'. Mayor Lozano led the Baldwin Park City Council to formally proclaim that the monument would remain intact on June 25, 2005.
Opposition to SOS has originated in many quarters and organization of counterdemonstrations has largely been ad hoc. Galvanized by the protest of the monument, a coalition calling themselves "Committee to Defend Danzas Indigenas" was formed, and they helped the city of Baldwin Park to plan the response to the second protest of the monument known as Balwin Park II (BPII). An Inland Empire
-based group called the Southern California Human Rights Network began to protest Save Our State within a few months of the beginning of its activities. They group worked with another newly-founded coalition, La Tierra Es De Todos, in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The San Diego
-based Gente Unida ("People United") extended their anti-Minuteman activities to include anti-SOS actions. Leftist antiwar organizations such as San Gabriel Neighbors for Peace and Justice and the Los Angeles branch of ANSWER
also organized in opposition, as did the socialist groups ISO
and the Socialist Workers Party
. Day laborer organizations such as the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) and their supporters the Catholic Charities have both spoken out against SOS and their tactics. Civil Rights groups such as MEChA
have come out against the group. Mexican groups such as Mexica Movement
, La voz de Aztlan, SPARC, Danza Azteca groups, and local musicians and visual artists have all denounced the group.
Alleged ties to extremist groups
Save Our State has been described as a race-based hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In 2005, it was reported that white supremacists had participated in Save Our State demonstrations. Save Our State founder Joseph Turner responded to the controversy, "there seems to be very little we can do to keep them from piggybacking off our activism. ... [W]e are unable to really do anything about it.
In an online forum entry in 2005, Turner wrote,
- "Petition targets aiding of illegal migrants in city" San Bernardino County Sun, April 25, 2006
- "SoCal groups square off over immigration bill" San Jose Mercury News, March 31, 2006
- "Protests shut down job centers" Burbank Leader, March 1, 2006
- "Minuteman ally injured in protest sues city" WorldNetDaily, February 4, 2006
- "Day laborer center approved" Burbank Leader, January 11, 2006
- "25 Laborers Show Up on 1st Day of Burbank Hiring Center" LA Times, January 13, 2006
- "Groups stage nationwide rallies denouncing illegal immigration" The Desert Sun, January 8, 2005
- "A Ventura County group's vow to force Baldwin Park to remove an inscription at a Metrolink station is based on an error, artist says" A hispanicvista.com reprint of a Times article on Baldwin Park