Putting a lock on ICE in Colorado

August 16, 2018

Richard Folsom reports on a protest during an Occupy ICE action outside of Denver.

EIGHT ACTIVISTS were arrested on August 2 and cited for “unreasonably obstructing the usual use of a parking lot” at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) field office in Centennial, Colorado.

The arrests took place after an encampment vigil that was begun on July 29 and culminated with the occupation of the ICE facility’s driveways.

A coalition of immigrant rights activists, socialists and various social justice organizations came together to make this action possible. Starting with the Occupy ICE encampment in Portland, Oregon, in July, encampments have emerged around the country around the call to abolish ICE.

As Jeanette Vizguerra, a prominent immigrant rights activist & former labor activist with SEIU, reported to Unicorn Riot, the OccupyICE Camp had three demands:

The first demand is that there are over 50 families here in a GEO ICE Detention Center in Colorado, we want those kids to be reunited with their parents because it is unjust that the government is owning the futures of those families.

And we are also asking them to cease the deportations here in Colorado with families that have already lived here for decades and that are being persecuted like criminals when they are not...The other demand is for better treatment in detention centers for the detained people who are treated in a cruel and horrible manner.

Activists protest outside an ICE field office in Centennial, Colorado
Activists protest outside an ICE field office in Centennial, Colorado (Boulder County DSA | Twitter)

Pat Boyle, an activist camped on the scene said he was there because he “wanted to support the affected families and people whose lives are being actively destroyed by ICE.” He added, “I just think that ICE is a completely horrible institution that should be abolished.”

ON AUGUST 2, as supporters of the encampment were speaking and rallying, eight activists in lockboxes blocked both driveways to the ICE facility, and other demonstrators formed a circular picket line in front of the activists. An hour into the occupation, what appeared to be an ICE officer tried to drive a truck through one of the driveways, and activists pushed it back.

Throughout the afternoon, police and ICE officials didn’t directly try to end the occupation. Officers in camouflage remained stationed around the entrance to the building. In the late afternoon, cars parked in the ICE facility parking lot were redirected around the occupiers.

Around 6 p.m., a small army of police arrived in full riot gear. They marched toward the first driveway to hack through the lockboxes and detain the activists who were carrying out civil disobedience. Seemingly not having dealt with direct action in Centennial before, the police took a long time sawing through the lockboxes.

When the protesters were all escorted to a van, seven of the eight arrestees were taken to an unknown location before being given a federal citation and court summons for “unreasonably obstructing the usual use of a parking lot.”

The action was followed by a protest at the private ICE detention facility center — run by the GEO Group — in Aurora, Colorado, which has been taking place every three months for years.

The success of the movement going forward will depend on the response of wider numbers of people to the attacks taking place today. As Justin Akers Chacón wrote for SocialistWorker.org, “For a movement to abolish ICE to succeed, it will also have to unmask and challenge the economic roots and inner workings of immigrant repression as a function of U.S. capitalism, and its attendant foreign and domestic policy.”

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