In response to recent ICE raids throughout the United States, a coalition of immigration and criminal justice reform organizations rallied New Yorkers to protest on Saturday, drawing hundreds of people to Washington Square Park. At least 40 undocumented people, including a Bushwick man, were detained in New York City during the week prior to the event, among 600 other similar cases across the country.
Make The Road New York, a local immigration advocacy group, issued a public condemnation of the arrests:
The Department of Homeland Security makes clear in its statement that it includes in the category of’public safety threats’ people who ‘violated our nation’s immigration laws’ or ‘re-entered the country after being deported.’ This unconscionably over-broad definition is clearly designed to mislead the American public and turn them against the immigrants being targeted through these raids.
While the deportation sweep happened on a national scale, the protest Saturday focused on New York-specific policies. Speakers called upon Mayor de Blasio to end broken-windows policing, which they argued unfairly targets and criminalizes communities of color. ICE carried out the raids last week in New York despite its status as a so-called sanctuary city, stirring concerns about the safety of many immigrant communities.
The event allowed for collective catharsis about many intersecting issues— from enduring outrage over the immigration ban, to the current raid violence, to mass incarceration and police brutality. A lone Trump supporter stood conspicuously at the center of the park’s dormant fountain as if it were a pulpit, wearing his antagonizing “Make America Great” hat. Protesters engulfed the man, blasting him with anti-white-supremacist chants through megaphones. Parents carried their children holding hand-drawn signs, while the more radical stripes found a chance to burn the flag.
By the time the protest spilled into the streets, passions were high, and the NYPD was primed to receive them, resulting in at least one arrest. Crowds filed through the narrow, boutique-lined streets of the West Village shouting in passionate unison. Passing beside a row of police officers, one of them asked me if we would really keep this up for eight years. “If that what it takes,” I replied. And I meant it.
Audio reporting by Katie Schlecter.