By Frank Pierson
Then and Now
Events of the Great Oracle Bus Blockade on July 15, 2014 began with a letter posted on the bulletin board of the Oracle Post Office. The former head of Magma Copper Company security, fired up by a tip from Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, issued a call to arms to fellow “patriots”.
Blockade! Migrant children are invading our town from Central America! Meet at the junction of Old Mt Lemmon Highway and Webb Road! Let’s stop ‘em by any means necessary!
As the blockade began to materialize, a handful of Oracle neighbors joined others recruited from around the state of Arizona and beyond by anti immigrant activist organizations.
For a while, for the blockaders, it looked promising. The evening before, Sheriff Paul Babeu addressed a roomful of retirees in the neighboring SaddleBrooke community. With a melange of might be’s and could be’s regarding health and safety risks posed by possibly disease carrying children and gang members to be housed in Oracle, he sought to whip turnout. He predicted 500-700.
It didn’t come down the way the Sheriff and the blockaders hoped. The turnout was weak, maybe 75-100. The intended message muddied. A gathering of twice as many in the Heart of Oracle advocated a welcoming embrace for the Central American children.
The real downer for the blockaders came when a wanna-be congressman seeking to exploit the situation for his flagging campaign misidentified a busload of Marana school kids going to the Y camp as alien invaders. As he and the group surged forward to their battle stations his error became apparent. His move was caught on camera and entertained the evening news watching crowd.
Hours later the blockaders declared mission accomplished. No alien invaders had gotten through their defenses that day. Most of them left town. A handful of locals stuck it out to monitor the situation for a couple of days thereafter with no aliens arriving in big yellow school buses as far as they could tell.
The politically ambitious Sheriff Babeu turned to the business of raising money off his role in creating the blockade by instructing his consultants to fire off a barrage of fundraising appeals.
In the meantime, Oracle residents, through the Have a Heart Campaign, have embraced the migrant children/youth for as long as they reside nearby. The heart of Oracle extends welcome, love and human solidarity as they make their way to family members around the United States.