Protesters rally around woman who took sanctuary in Denver church

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DENVER — Protesters marched from Civic Center Park to First Unitarian Church on Saturday to show their support for a woman who sought sanctuary inside the church to avoid being deported.

Several hundred people gathered for the rally. Organizer Queen Phoenix said the march was all-inclusive with protesters rallying for everything from immigrants’ rights to the constitution.

“There are so many different venues that are hurting us and offending so many different groups of people,” said Phoenix.

Jeanette Vizguerra is living in the country illegally. She sought sanctuary in First Unitarian Church to avoid being deported and separated from her four children.

She came to the U.S. 20 years ago with her husband and daughter. Several years ago, she was pulled over during a traffic stop and police found a job application with a made-up Social Security number on it.

Later, Vizguerra traveled back to Mexico to spend time with her dying mother and was detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents as she crossed the border illegally.

Since then, her attorney said she has been a high priority for immigration authorities.

Vizguerra addressed the crowd outside the church Saturday. She said the image of all the people standing on the front steps of the church will stay in her memory forever.

“It’s very emotional, see very much people coming, and express your support, your love, it’s very emotional,” Vizaguerra said.

“As soon as I embraced her, she trembled. She was crying, she was so touched by how many people showed up and how many people cared about her,” Phoenix said.

“She has worked every day she has come here. She had two jobs at the time when she got stopped and she actually belongs here. Our country isn’t going to be anywhere near what it should be without our immigrants,” protester Claudia Vick said.

Other protest participants showed up to show their support for the Constitution. Mohamed Mouaddine brought his two children because he believes it’s important for them to experience these rallies.

“I grew up in a country that does not have the freedom.  You need to stand up for your freedom because it’s something you don’t know the price of, unless you don’t have it,” Mouaddine said.

“I came here to stand for my country and stand for my rights and stand for the constitution,” 7-year-old Heba Mouaddine said.

“I would like to thank everyone that came here to defend the constitution and defend their Muslim brothers and sisters,” Mouaddine’s son Otman said. “I am really proud of that and touched.”

“I feel that America is supposed to be a nation that is together and we’re not supposed to be divided and we’re all supposed to stand together and I think that’s what we did here today,” Sarah Bendahmane said.

Organizers want to plan a protest each week. Their next scheduled event will take place Monday.

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