SA pastor details abrupt end to San Diego protest at U.S.-Mexico border

Local pastor Gavin Rogers also took part in last month's migrant caravan

By Jessie Degollado - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - People and clergy of all faiths gathered Monday in Friendship Park within sight of the border fence in San Diego as part of their "Love Knows No Borders" protest.

The protesters were met by U.S. Border Patrol agents in riot gear.

"I was just kind of shocked," said Gavin Rogers, associate pastor of Travis Park United Methodist Church.

Rogers considered the Border Patrol's action an effort to intimidate the protestors.

"We were there to lift up our brothers and sisters across the border, in prayer," Rogers said.

Their show of solidarity was organized by the American Friends Service Committee.

Rogers said the AFSC is a Quaker organization that's been fighting for peace and justice for more than a century.

For an unknown reason, Rogers said the agents decided to break up their protest even though Border Patrol had the area designated for them.

In his clerical robe, Rogers said some, like himself, were kneeling in prayer while others had their hands up. During this time, BP agents suddenly began moving toward them.

"They’re peacefully on the right side of the line, and they’re getting pulled in," Rogers said. He said it seemed the agents were arbitrarily detaining people.

A spokesman for U.S. Border Patrol said of the 32 that were taken into custody, only one was charged with assault and resisting or impeding a federal agent.

But Rogers said those charges were soon dropped because "there was nothing there."

RELATED: Local pastor joins migrant caravan in Mexico

Rogers said they had come to reinforce the fact that migrants have a legal right to seek asylum, to protest the militarization of the border, and to call out privately run detention centers where asylum seekers and children are being jailed.

"Our faith is not formed by politics," Rogers said.

Last month, Rogers took part in the migrant caravan, joining them when they reached Tijuana.

"Some may see what I do as a political action. It really is just one of faith," Rogers said.

Despite their encounter with agents in riot gear, Rogers said the protest "was not against the Border Patrol. This was not even against the military. I have great respect for the military."

Rogers said he is not pointing a finger at the U.S. government, but rather everyone who lacks compassion and an understanding for migrants.

The associate pastor said the Savior whose birth is being celebrated this month was a refugee.

"His mother and earthly father were fleeing ... a severe genocide, crossing borders for safety," Rogers said. "I’m not politicizing a religious story. That is the religious story."

Rogers said he prays for the migrants he's met and befriended, and he considers them courageous.

"They’re not easy prayers," he said. "They're tough prayers, but we pray."

A spokesperson with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection sent the following statement to KSAT: 

"On December 10, 2018, between the hours of approximately 12:30 PM and 2:00 PM, a total of 32 individuals were arrested during an organized march near the border in Imperial Beach, CA. 31 individuals were detained and then cited and released by the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service in violation of 41 CFR 102-74-385. One individual was taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol following allegations of assaulting, resisting, or impeding a Federal agent. The march concluded at approximately 2:10 PM when participants departed the area."

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