POSTVILLE, Iowa - About a thousand protesters descended on a small town in northeastern Iowa on Sunday, decrying the raid of a meatpacking plant that arrested nearly 400 residents and calling for a change in federal immigration policies.
Postville, a town with about 2,200 residents, was pushed to the forefront of a national debate when federal immigration officials raided Agriprocessors — the biggest U.S. kosher meatpacking plant — in May in the largest raid of its kind in the United States. Most of those arrested were Guatemalan and Mexican nationals who lived in the area.
Sunday's protesters — many arriving by bus from the Twin Cities and Chicago — circled the streets of Postville on a route about a mile long. Some clutched banners and signs such as one that read, "United for immigrant and worker rights."
Protests and counter-protests
Rabbi Harold Kravitz of the Adath Jeshurun Congregation in Minnetonka, Minnesota, spoke when the rally paused near the driveway of Agriprocessors, on the outskirts of town.
Shouting into a portable microphone, he said the protesters wanted to stop the criminalization of people who come to the U.S. simply to make a living.
"People have come here from Minneapolis, Wisconsin, Chicago, New York and New Jersey ... because we care," Kravitz said.
The rally also drew about 75 anti-immigration protesters.
Claire Jamison, who said she'd traveled from Minneapolis, wore a hat emblazoned with a U.S. Border Patrol logo and held a sign reading "What would Jesus do? Obey the law."
"I'm just so fed up as an American. We have laws. Why can't they obey our laws?" Jamison said. "I empathize with those people, but they are not victims. They should not have even been here."
About a half-dozen Agriprocessors workers stood watching the rally from just inside the company's gates.