Albert Lea residents protest sign against illegal immigrantsby Elizabeth Baier, Minnesota Public Radio
ALBERT LEA, Minn. — About a hundred people marched on Monday evening to protest a sign that calls for the deportation of illegal immigrants.
The rally and march through Albert Lea were organized by the Owatonna-based immigrant rights group Centro Campesino to denounce a scrolling LED sign that reads "check dictionary, illegal is criminal." The sign was put up on the outside wall of a local business.
The recent shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin heightens the need for discussions about race and ethnicity across the country, said Jeffrey Jurewicz, Centro Campesino community organizer.
"It made me a little bit fearful to come here today," Jurewicz said. "After hearing so many stories of how hostile this place here and experiencing it myself while organizing this protest, I thought to myself, when there is a climate of intolerance and hate, you never know what could happen."
An airplane carrying another sign that reading "catch and release - no; deport illegals - si" also flew above the city Monday night.
The owner of the building on which the sign hangs did not return calls for comment. A handful of residents gathered in support of the sign's message.
"I recognize that this gentleman has every right to exercise his freedom of speech," Jurewicz said. "However, we also have that right and so our goal really became to raise awareness and to try and change the culture about undocumented immigrants here in Albert Lea and to try and really shift attitudes."