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Fresno Anti-Deportation Rally Shuts Down Jail Visitations

Protestors block off street; close parts of Fresno County Jail

A protest over deportations shuts down parts of downtown Fresno and the county jail.  Demonstrators say the government needs to stop separating families; especially heading into the holidays.

The anti-deportation rally brought protestors out by the dozens.  Some even tied themselves to ladders to show they're not going anywhere.

Protestor Gelascio Rodriguez says, "The message is for President Obama to stop deportations."

Rodriguez knows what it's like to be separated from family.

"My older brother was deported two years ago simply for driving without a license, going to work," says Rodriguez.

Monday's call for change turned into an unexpected inconvenience for many.

Latara Patton says, "I was really mad.  I asked how long it would take.  They said they won't let anybody in and it could take hours."

Due to safety concerns, sheriff's deputies stood by in riot gear and the Fresno County Jail shut down inmate releases and visitations.  That means Crystal Whitaker won't see her child's father until next week.

"It's okay for them protest.  I'd rather them go down there, I mean why would it be right in front of the jail?  It's two days before Christmas.  I just want to see him before Christmas," says Whitaker.

Protestors also closed a block of M street to traffic.

Fresno police captain Andy Hall says, "If we were to go in and try to break them up, then we become the story so we'll allow them to protest and they'll find out that it won't necessarily work to their advantage."

Sheriff Margaret Mims was at the center of the rally; accused of being Fresno's "deporter in chief."  In response to those accusations, she issued a statement reading in part, "Perpetrators of crime against residents of Fresno County should not be shielded from consequences."

Police say it is illegal to close off a street.  They say the organizers of the protest will be held accountable.

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