Occupy ICE Detroit - Day 3 - Hold the Line

Robert Jay • 28 June 2018
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The day began at 4 AM, for those not pulling the night shift. Cries of scorn and disgust emanated from tents as bucket drums were beat for a wake-up call. Two days of planning were finally coming to fruition, the blockade of Detroit's ICE Field Office begins. Intel stated ICE agents can enter the office as early as 5 AM to resume their genocidal campaign.

Protesters quickly went to work executing their blockade strategy, a hodgepodge of ideas collectively hashed out that created a surprising amount of cohesion and mitigated having such limited personnel. Only 40 could make it at such an early hour. Several suspected ICE agents attempted to pull in, but were met with an impenetrable wall of anti-bigotry chants and hardy activists. In frustration, they shook their head, gave the resistance the finger and turned around, unable to fulfill their requirements for the torture of immigrant families.

With three gates to guard, Occupy ICE Detroit was spread thin, but a mixture of guile, courage and communication allowed the blockade to continue for six hours.

police at Occupy
DPD, after removing the barricades at Mt. Elliott camp, stand in a line in front of the gate for 15 minutes. 

The tale of Occupy ICE Detroit's standoff is a tale of two camps, holding the line along Mt. Elliott St's gates and another on Jefferson. At first, three DPD squad cars rushed the Northern gate at Mt. Elliot, prompting an influx of reinforcements. DPD officers exited their vehicles and stood agape at the collection of activists blocking off not just the gates to the ICE Field Office, but the Southern end of Mt. Elliott itself. At this point, it was determined blockading the building marked "Immigration Photos" was essential, as immigrants who attend their ICE check-in appointments live under the constant specter of deportation, fearing each appointment could be their last on American soil. Since no ICE Agents could enter their office, the appointments had been summarily canceled. One family with an appointment would have their mother taken from them, should the meeting be allowed to take place. A family stayed united today, because Occupy ICE Detroit refuses to accept genocide. The looks of relief on the faces of others indicates she was not alone.

A Chippewa County Sheriffs car strolled down Mt. Elliott, with an undocumented person in the back seat. After a few confused moments of deliberation while in park, the Sheriffs car turned around in the face of the picket and drove off.

A further rush of police personnel pushed the Mt. Elliott team off the street itself, punctuated by a ginger police Captain verbally taunting protesters while filming them with a gold-rimmed camcorder, but left the gate blockade and the immigration appointments remained canceled. Eventually, the pool of officers challenging Mt. Elliott was reduced to four, who showed little interest in the protest, beyond telling a protester her music was too loud to have that many expletives in it.

Meanwhile, Jefferson camp started off pleasantly, the blockade and banners were met with a chorus of appreciative honks from drivers passing by. However, trouble was brewing in the parking lot of an adjacent strip mall, where six DHS SUVs lay in wait, plotting the demise of the resistance. Shortly thereafter, Jefferson camp was beseiged by 9 squad cars, largely the property of DPD. Fifteen officers exited their vehicles and stared down the wall of humanity preventing the continuation of a pogrom.

jefferson camp
Jefferson camp, during its stand.

A higher ranking officer declared the gate as private property, and protesters must disperse. They were given a warning, the first of three. They held the line, they refused to back down. The standoff continued as hours ticked bye, another warning given, and another warning ignored. Eventually, DHS and DPD forces surrounded the Jefferson camp, equaling the number of protesters. They threatened using tear gas canisters, and swept the encampment with dogs. The ginger Captain returned with full petulance, gleefully waving a fistful of twist ties as a threat against those who won't comply. The third warning was issued, six hours after the blockade began, but an outnumbered resistance were left with little viable choice but to comply. Their first ever mission took six hours away from ICE to inflict chilling horrors on immigrant families, and the excessive Belle Isle Fireworks traffic took care of the rest, suspending most to all of ICE's activities for the day.

Despite assurances from officers that a picket protest was still legal, as long as vehicles aren't blockaded, the ginger Captain demanded Occupy ICE Detroit strike its camp. Failure to comply would result in the entire encampment being tossed into city dump trucks.

In their first attempt at shutting down an ICE facility, this movement provably kept families together and thwarted ICE's daily plan. Camp was re-established Tuesday evening, 6/26.

So far, members of three families present for check-in appointments have reached out to protesters saying their parent was due to be kidnapped and exiled that day. They were granted a stay of two weeks for a new appointment, but that's still two more weeks with a unified family.

jefferson blockade
Jefferson camp blockade, in loving memory.

 

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