When protesters in Portland, Oregon gathered last week to hold a candlelight vigil for the thousands of children who have been separated from their parents along the U.S.-Mexico border, they likely did not expect to ignite a national movement against against the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. But in the past week, dozens of cities across the country have followed Portland’s lead, holding Occupy ICE protests and demanding that the agency, which is responsible for carrying out family separations due to the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, be shut down.
“Make no mistake, ICE is a white supremacist organization following the orders of a white supremacist administration, and the intent of these policies is to discourage all nonwhite immigration, legal and illegal, and to preserve the power of the rapidly shrinking white majority,” a statement by Portland’s Occupy ICE PDX read. “It is not only possible to imagine a world without ICE, an organization which has only existed for the last 15 years, but necessary and our duty to make it a reality.”
**OFFICIAL NATIONWIDE CALL FOR ACTION AND OCCUPATION**We are calling on all of our comrades across the nation to occupy and shutdown your local I.C.E building!#AbolishICE #OccupyICE #OccupyICEPDX #StandWithRefugees #StopSeparatingFamilies pic.twitter.com/jJbqE5oejm
— Abolish I.C.E PDX (@OccupyICEPDX) June 20, 2018
The protests are aimed at freezing ICE operations by blocking the federal buildings and have rapidly spread to San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, Pittsburgh, New York City, Detroit, and McAllen, Texas, among others. On Monday, the federal government threatened to arrest protesters in Portland who were blocking the ICE building, but the warning has not appeared to stop the demonstrations.
More than 100 activists marched outside the ICE building in Pittsburgh’s South Side Monday, calling for the agency to be shut down. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pennsylvania houses one of three ICE family immigration detention facilities in the country.
Protesters gather in front of Pittsburgh’s ICE field office to protest the separation of immigrant families on the border. pic.twitter.com/lAQer3Oqzv
— Annie Rosenthal (@AnnieRosenthal8) June 25, 2018
Activists in Michigan organized a weeklong protest, beginning over the weekend, with plans to camp outside the ICE building in downtown Detroit for 24 hours a day until June 30.
“Our short term goal is to shut down operations at this particular center,” Robert Jay of Metro Detroit Political Action Network, told a local ABC affiliate. “Our long term goal is to abolish ICE entirely.”
Activists protest outside ICE agency in downtown Detroit. Credit: Screenshot, WXYZ
Outside the Otay Mesa detention center in San Diego Saturday, protesters locked arms and stood in front of the chain-linked fence chanting, “One people, one fight!” Later in the day, demonstrators blocked cars from leaving the detention center.
They then linked arms and chanted some more after tying kids’ shoes to the fence. pic.twitter.com/PQNp93H0KK
— Andrew Bowen (@acbowen) June 24, 2018
At the country’s largest detention center in McAllen, Texas, protestors gathered outside the facility Saturday and blocked a bus with immigrant children on board. The demonstrators carried signs saying “You are not alone.” According to CNN reporter Sonia Moghe, U.S. Border Patrol officials surrounded the bus, allowing it to back up and leave at the other end of the street. “We do not know where the children are headed,” Moghe tweeted.
Protestors have blocked a bus transporting children from Ursula. pic.twitter.com/p3zUoHSM6T
— Sonia Moghe (@soniamoghe) June 23, 2018
In New York City, protesters took part in the several days of demonstrations at a local ICE processing center and, on Monday, announced that, as a result of their actions, the agency cancelled its hearings for the day.
“We will continue to remain in the space and organize with renewed energy!” the Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council posted on Twitter.
Our official statement regarding the ICE cancellation of hearings at 201 Varick for 06/25. This occupation is not over. We will continue to remain in the space and organize with renewed energy! No borders, no nations, no deportations! #OccupyICE #OccupyICENYC #AbolishICE 🏴 pic.twitter.com/uyectvoh6M
— MACC NYC (@macc_nyc) June 25, 2018
According to Splinter News, New York City protesters on Friday linked arms and blocked an ICE vehicle with detained migrants from leaving the facility. “One protester was thrown to the ground before the van’s driver managed to force his way through the crowd with the help of immigration officers, who also linked arms to plow through the protesters,” Splinter reported.
Similar and overlapping national protests have been planned on June 30 and will include mass demonstrations in more than 100 cities across the country calling for an end to family separations at the border. Despite Trump’s decision last week to sign an executive order halting family separations, a crisis his administration created, the order makes no promises that families will no longer be separated at the border. Furthermore, plans to reunite the thousands of children in Department of Health and Human Services custody with their parents are slow-moving and not guaranteed.