By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau
SACRAMENTO – Some laws may be made to be broken – and that’s essentially what groups like Occupy ICE and NorCal Resist are saying here about federal immigration laws that have caged thousands of children and separated them from their parents over the past few months.
Scattered protests at the downtown Capitol Mall building that houses ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) gave way over the last week or so to outright civil disobedience with an “Occupy ICE” encampment set up on the doorstep of ICE. There were no arrests, but plenty of action.
Activists engaged in the hunger strike – part of a national effort – starting Aug. 2 in Sacramento in front of ICE HQ to bring attention to what they describe as an urgent plight of immigrants in Sacramento.
According to NorCal Resist, ICE failed to meet the July 26 deadline imposed by a federal judge to reunite children with their parents who were separated during the “cruel and unjust zero tolerance policy implemented by the Trump administration and unleashed by ICE.”
It was about that date – July 26 – that a 24-hour “Occupy ICE” encampment appeared in Sacramento, and other cities around the country. The virtual tent city, complete with signs, banners, sofas, tents – and even a makeshift toilet, sprung up overnight.
“Abolish ICE,” “FXXX ICE” read some of the signs and banners planted right in the face of the ICE HQ.
“At this moment, over 1500 parents continue to be separated from their children and loved ones with the vast majority still in detention. (O)ver 450 parents were deported without their children that may never be reunited. But more heartbreaking, is the inflicted physical, mental, and emotional abuse that the detained children are enduring from ICE, which has led to the death of an innocent little girl,” said NorCal Resist.
“Although we have had victories in CA, such as passing statewide legislation that curtail the unjust attacks this administration has against immigrants by making California a sanctuary state (and) Sacramento and Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors ending their detention center contracts with ICE; and coming together as a community to end local complicity with detentions, we must continue the fight for the release of our immigrant sisters and brothers,” said Ruth Ibarra, president of the Coalition of Labor Union Women CA Capital Chapter and a member of NorCal Resist.
Ibarra and other members of NorCal Resist – in the spirit of suffragettes and others who broke the law and staged hunger strikes until unjust laws changed – said they were joining 500 detained fathers and sons currently on a hunger strike.
“We are participating in a National Rolling Hunger Strike in solidarity with our immigrant families affected by the Trump administration’s racist policies that are enforced by ICE. We demand: that every family separated by this administration be reunited and released from detention camps immediately (and) that these families receive support and justice for the trauma inflicted by our government (and) that the individuals formerly detained in Rio Consumnes and West County detention center be returned to their families during the pendency of their immigration proceedings,” said Ibarra.
The hungerstrikers also denounced the Sacramento Police Department’s harassment of the #OccupyICESacto encampment and demand Mayor Steinberg and City Council Members work with community leaders to end all entanglement with ICE.
“And since ICE is not the only form of institutionalized oppression against us, we demand that our sheriff and police departments and district attorney’s office, acknowledge that Black Lives Matter and prosecute police officers who have murdered our brothers and sisters.
“We do not trust institutions that benefit the rich and oppress the poor, the working class, immigrant families, and people of color and therefore, we will not adhere to corrupt administrations that criminalize and dehumanize us. We will continue to take action until our demands are met and we are all free,” said Ibarra.
The fate of the Occupy ICE encampment?
It was raided at least a half dozen times by SPD officers – some heavily armed with rifles – and Homeland Security and Federal Protective Services. SPD, who at one time numbered more than 40 officers and nearly 20 trucks, SUVs and police cruisers, rousted 15-20 protestors, hauling away tons of protestor property, including tents, sofas, tables and other items.
Protestors have charged the tents depicted the cages in which immigrant children are being kept and should have been allowed to stay under the protestors’ First Amendment right to freedom of expression. That point may well be settled in court at a later date.
The tent city, in effect, began July 26 but was disbanded after one last SPD raid this past weekend. Protestors said they have other “plans” but wouldn’t elaborate, releasing a statement, which read in part:
“Peoples across this city, the country, and the world are boiling with frustration, anger, and trauma. Millions watch in horror as policies initiated by the Obama administration are accelerated and expanded by the Trump administration in an attempt to break the bodies and spirits of would-be asylum seekers and refugees, and those who stand in solidarity, support, and defense of them.
“As politicians and media personalities wring their hands in mealy-mouthed protestation, communities across and between countries have erected encampments at ICE facilities to blockade and disrupt the detention and separation of families at the border and aid migrants in their journey across already-existing militarized walls sponsored and funded by three successive presidential administrations.
“This city was built on the land of the Southern Maidu, Valley Miwok, and Nisenan people. The ICE building on the Sacramento Capitol Mall was constructed as part of the violent removal and subsequent gentrification of a neighborhood that once housed Black and Japanese peoples. This same building is used to maintain white supremacy in its most overt form, caging and separating immigrant families with all the administrative banality of a driver’s license processing facility.
“There’s a restlessness in this city the last few years as racist screed and violence resurfaced in this country with a vengeance. Hundreds of people in Sacramento successfully prevented neo-Nazis from claiming any real or symbolic victory to host a demonstration intended to intimidate people as Trump’s campaign garnered support in June 2016. After his election, even more turned out to (call for) his removal from office and voice their frustrations with a system hell-bent on re-enacting the fascistic turn of the early 20th century.
“In the wake of Sacramento police department’s murder of Stephon Clark, over a thousand people turned out to shut down the crowning jewel of Sacramento’s gentrifying redevelopment, the Golden 1 Center, to demand justice for his death and an end to police brutality. Rolling protests engulfed neighborhoods inhabited by peoples traumatized by the daily violence of policing. Just over 50 years ago the Black Panther Party showed up in Sacramento to disrupt the Assembly Chambers, protesting a law that would effectively prevent people of color from self-defense.
“We see the reverberations of those moments now. And as the U.S. Justice Department argued their case for ending California’s tepid sanctuary state law (which, though it proclaims prohibiting local police agencies from working with ICE, numerous documented cases of inter-departmental coordination across the state demonstrate the contrary), community members protested ICE’s inhumane child kidnapping policy outside of the courtroom proceedings.
“At every turn we have encountered attempted repression and stifling of community rage: by the Federal Bureau of Intelligence, Sacramento Police Department, the Sacramento Sheriff’s office, the California Highway Patrol, the Sacramento City Council, and their vigilante hangers-on who gleefully cheer dehumanization and death – all with the veil of legality.
“And yet despite it all, many Sacramento community members continue to directly confront and oppose these institutions and open our hearts, minds, and communities to refuge-seeking migrants. To this point, Sacramento residents organized celebrations to welcome refugees as they touched down into the city at the height of Trump’s first Muslim ban attempt.
“We come together to not only demand the reuniting of children with their parents and the abolition of ICE and of all cages but to actively take steps to dismantle them and the systems they serve. We demand that immigrants be allowed to fight their legal cases outside of detention. We demand an immediate moratorium on all deportations. We reject all walls, all cages, and all borders.”