Dan Watman, with unplugged microphone and Border Patrol watching closely from behind.
An international incident interrupted the "Poesía transfronteriza" poetry reading attended by over 60 people on August 25 at the border fence in Friendship Park.
Poet Nasheili Gonzalez (second from left), who was kicked out, listened with other attendees to poets reading on the other side of the fence.
People on both sides of the border watched a series of writers reciting their work in Spanish and English through the large metal fence while an armed border patrol agent kept close watch. The U.S. part of the event, called Border Poets, was held in a no-man's land between the old fence on the Mexico side of the border and the new fence running parallel about 60 feet away built in 2009 on the U.S. side. Near the end of the reading, the poet Nasheili Gonzalez on the U.S. side of the fence was escorted out of the zone by Border Patrol Agent Kris Stricklin after she stepped into a forbidden area to pick up a small homemade kite that had been dropped through the fence posts from the Mexico side.
Kites slipping through border fence
Before ordering Gonzalez out of the area, Agent Stricklin said to her, "Why would you do that? You know we're going to see you. There's the cameras," gesturing towards the security cameras. Agent Strickland watched most of the reading from a white Border Patrol SUV parked about 40 feet away. He declined to comment on the incident, referring to questions contacts on his business card at U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Dan Watman and the unplugged microphone
Organizer Daniel Watman of Border Encuentro, a group that holds events at the border fence or at the beach borderline, said this is the biggest incident at one of their events so far. Watman said the agent "interrupts at any point that there is someone passing something through the fence.”
Watman said that before the secondary wall was built, people used to hold hands and pass pizza through the old wall, which is made of large vertical metal beams with gaps of about six inches in between them. But now the Border Patrol policy is strict. Watman said they even got in trouble once when water was accidentally being squirted through the fence while creating a garden at the site. In addition to working on that garden every Sunday from 11 am to 1 pm, he said the next big event will be on Saturday, September 21, California Coastal Cleanup Day, and involves general garden improvement.