By: Bobeth Yates
Posted May 1, 2017

SARASOTA FL (WWSB) — Protesters and counter protesters took to the streets of downtown Sarasota.  The groups were voicing their concerns about the possibility of Sarasota becoming a sanctuary city.


“No hate, no fare, immigrants are welcomed here,” chanted a crowd of protesters. Their message is one that has literally divided the community. On one side, are those who support sanctuary cities; on the other, those in opposition.


“This is America, speak the language,” yelled a counter protester.


The issue has come to the forefront as Sarasota residents head to the polls to cast their ballots for the next city commissioner.


“Recently a city commission candidate stated that she wanted to make Sarasota a sanctuary city. That upsets a lot of Sarasotans,” said Republican Caucus State Committeeman, Christian Ziegler.


Ziegler is referring to Jennifer Ahearn-Koch.  But while she does express support for the idea of sanctuary cities throughout the country, in a statement Ahearn-Koch told ABC7, her words are being misconstrued.


“This is an outright lie and a desperate political trick that is as old as time,” Ahearn-Koch said. “Fear mongering as a diversion from the real issues. I was the top vote-getter in the primary. I have the support of the voters and I’m the candidate who knows the most about the issues. I’m the candidate with the most experience in the city.


“Fortunately, we have an educated electorate who knows I’ve been actively protecting the city for 20 years and I would never do anything to hurt our community. I wish Mr. Hyde would move away from fear mongering and discuss the real city issues our community needs.”


But what Ahearn-Koch said or didn’t say isn’t stopping protesters. Sean Sellers, with the organization “All of Us Sarasota”, was among those protesting. He says his group is fighting for immigrant rights but also hopes to help people understand the real meaning of a sanctuary city.


“We believe that human rights are universal,” Sellers said. “And you can’t decide who does or does not receive human rights.”


“I think they’re extreme,” said Ziegler. “I think they ridiculous. They’re advocating for breaking the law and ignoring the law and that’s a very dangerous precedent to set in our city.”


So what is a sanctuary city? It’s a city that limits its cooperation with the national government effort to enforce immigration law. Supporters say it shifts the immigration enforcement to the federal government by removing it from local municipalities.


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