Talk about wedding crashers. Newlyweds Danielle and Thierno Diallo of Essex claim that last Saturday night their wedding in St. Albans was "ruined" by Border Patrol agents, who showed up at their reception and began questioning the wedding party and guests about their immigration status. The couple claims that the federal response occurred for no other reason than that many of their guests had dark skin and African accents.
However, Border Patrol tells a very different story. According to Mark Henry, operations officer for U.S. Border Patrol's Swanton sector, his agents were simply responding to a call about "multiple suspicious individuals on Main Street in St. Albans" congregating around a "closed or abandoned store or building."
According to the newlyweds' account, which they told at a Wednesday afternoon press conference, the evening started out as a joyous occasion. Danielle, 31, is white, grew up in Winooski and currently works as a hair salon manager in Burlington. She says the wedding ceremony was held in front of the fountain in Taylor Park in St. Albans and went off without a hitch. It was followed immediately thereafter by a traditional African drumming ceremony.
Afterwards, the guests proceeded to a reception at the St. Albans clubhouse of the Vermont Voltage, a semi-pro soccer team that Thierno plays for and coaches. Thierno, 28, is black and originally from Guinea, west Africa. He spent most of his formative years in France before moving to Vermont in 2001 and still speaks with an African accent. He's been with the Vermont Voltage soccer team since 2002, is active in the St. Albans community and has permanent resident status in the United States.
There were no initial signs of trouble brewing, though Danielle recalls that after the ceremony, a few young passersby in cars shouted racial epithets at the newlyweds and their guests and told them to "go home."
But the Diallos say that things didn't really get ugly until about 9:30 p.m. That's when, he claims, more than a half-dozen Border Patrol units showed up at their reception site and began questioning the groom and his guests outside about their immigration status.
"We're not quite sure why they showed up," Danielle reports. "They just showed up and proceeded to ask for papers... and questioned the legality of people attending our wedding."
"I've attended a lot of weddings in St. Albans," Thierno adds "I've never seen immigration coming in and asking people 'Why are you here and where are you coming from?'"