This article was originally published for Straus News.
June 21, 2018
Nearly 100 people gathered in front of the city’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement office on Varick Street Thursday evening to protest ICE’s detainment of undocumented immigrants and the separation of families at the country’s southern border.
Activists from New Sanctuary Coalition, an interfaith network, and the Rev. Billy Talen’s Church of Stop Shopping organized the protest, with Talen leading the swarm of people who gathered in front of the ICE headquarters.
Protesters held signs denouncing ICE and U.S. immigration policy, with Talen, using a bullhorn, leading chants of “abolish ICE” and “shut it down.” Members of Bikes Against Deportation, an offshoot of Talen’s Church of Stop Shopping, rode bicycles around the block to slow traffic.
“They’re fascists who respond to power,” Talen said to the crowd. “We must be that power.”
Some of the protesters spilled onto Varick, while others held signs across the street. Several took turns speaking into the bullhorn to tell stories and share opinions, while the Church of Stop Shopping Choir sang songs about protecting immigrants.
Daniel Valdes, a member of the Church of Stop Shopping, said the group wanted to call attention to the ICE location, which is just south of West Houston.
“We’re here to sort of say despite the fact that we’re a sanctuary city, right under our noses people are being captured and processed, right here at this place,” Valdes, 32, said. “There’s been a lot of focus on what’s going on at the border and the family separation at the border, but whenever somebody is taken, that’s a family separated. Somebody separated from their wife, their partner, their kids, their girlfriends, their friends, it’s still a very serious trauma and a serious violation of that person’s humanity.”
Another member of the Church of Stop Shopping, 38-year-old Jess Beck, said she wanted to shed more light on the issue.
“The best thing we can do is bring visibility to what’s happening here and maybe take hold of some of the attention that the immigration issue is getting right now because of what’s happening at the borders and make people recognize that it’s happening in our cities, on our streets, all around us all the time,” Beck said.