Park service bars access to site of border wall protests in Arizona

Border Report Tour

Officials say they want to protect people from heavy machinery; activists say it's meant to keep them from documenting "destruction" of sacred Indian lands

This screenshot from video shows a skirmish between protesters and Border Patrol and park rangers at the
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona.

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The National Park Service has closed public access to a spot in southern Arizona where activists were arrested last week for protesting construction of the border wall.

The closure includes West Border Road from Monument Hill west to Quitobaquito Springs, S. Puerto Blanco Drive from service road 85 to Quitobaquito Springs and N. Puerto Blanco Drive at Pozo Nuevo Road. It’s effective from Sept. 28 until further notice.

“The closure is in response to considerable public safety concerns associated with border infrastructure construction activities. Implementing the closure protects the public from exposure to heavy machinery and construction […] along narrow roadways and active construction zones,” the Park Service said in a statement.

However, some of the activists protesting the alleged destruction of Native American sacred sites standing on the path of the wall said federal officials are trying to stop public demonstrations against the border wall.

“This is a totally ridiculous closure,” said Laiken Jordahl, borderlands campaigner for the Tucson, Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity. “They’ve decided to close the entire area, including the sacred site of Quitobaquito Springs for everyone, including tribal members, in order to clamp down on protests and stop people from documenting the destruction that’s happening there.”

The spring inside Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is a sacred site to members of the Tohono O’odham tribe. It’s also a lifeline to wildlife that environmentalists say would be denied of sustenance. The demonstrators say construction activity associated with the border wall is destroying all of that.

“By issuing this closure, they’re saying they’re going to be arresting and citing anyone who’s going to be down there,” Jordahl said. “This has nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with trying to stop people from protesting the destruction of their sacred sites and holding ceremonies there.”

He said the closure put a stop to the protests but added that he’s uncertain about “how much longer people down there are going to tolerate that.”

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