Mexican president faces protest in California

Fenit Nirappi
Associated Press

Sacramento, Calif. – — Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto met Tuesday with lawmakers and swapped praise with Gov. Jerry Brown, but not all legislators rolled out the welcome mat at a luncheon held on the final day of his visit to California.

About 150 people, many waving American flags or holding signs, rallied across the street from the historic Stanford Mansion to call for the release of a Marine who is being detained in Mexico.

At least three Republican lawmakers rejected the lunch invitation from Brown as a way to protest Mexico’s incarceration of Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, who has been held since April after crossing the border with weapons.

A total of 19 Assembly Republicans who planned to attend the lunch signed a letter to Pena Nieto demanding the release of the Marine.

“It’s so nice to have teamwork for a change,” said state Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a former gubernatorial candidate.

Donnelly was the only lawmaker to join the protesters on the street.

“The president is here and the governor could just say, ‘Could you do me a favor?’ But he refuses to,” said protester Edward Doolin of Vacaville.

While the demonstrators were kept across the street from the mansion, their chants of “Free our Marine” could be heard at the outdoor wine-and-appetizers reception that was being held for Pena Nieto.

Some Republican lawmakers were critical of their colleagues protesting the visit of the Mexican president.

State Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, a Republican from Oceanside and a former Marine, said it did not help the process of trying to get Tahmooressi, an Afghanistan war veteran, back to the U.S.

“This is simply not the time to play politics when the well-being of this veteran’s life hangs in the balance,” Chavez said in a statement.

Assemblyman Don Wagner of Irvine criticized Donnelly directly, saying a sidewalk protest by a member of the Legislature is not an effective strategy.

“We do not need to stand on the street shouting the question when we can attend the lunch and ask the question directly,” Wagner said in a statement.