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On Saturday, December 3, William Anderson, Ingrid Chapman, and Victor Palafox – some of my favorite organizers in Alabama – teamed up with Occupy Birmingham and organized a protest of the Etowah County detention center in Gadsden, Alabama. According to Occupy Birmingham, followers of the popular “Occupy Wall Street” movement:
Opposition to the undue influence of money and corporate interests on the country’s politics has been one of the driving forces behind the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York as well as the hundreds of solidarity movements across the country. The same is true of the Occupy Birmingham movement, which plans to call attention to the link between corporate influence over state politics and Alabama’s new, repressive immigration policy, H.B. 56.
Various Occupy movements throughout the country have allied themselves with immigrant rights activists, frequently including a call for the DREAM Act and end to deportations in their list of grievances. In the end of November, Occupy LA called for “Los Angeles to be declared a sanctuary city for the undocumented, deportations to be discontinued and cooperation with immigration authorities be ended – including the turning in of arrestees’ names to immigration authorities,” according to Southern California Public Radio.
According to Lisa Rogers of The Gadsden Times, a crowd of about 150 to 200 people marched in the block near the courthouse and Etowah County Detention Center, yelling chants, such as “This is what democracy looks like,” “No papers. No fears,” and “Immigrants are marching here.”
At one point, detainees, who were watching from the window, held up signs to thank the protestors for taking a stance.
“As I was leading chants I saw this and was temporarily silenced,“ writes William Anderson on his facebook page. “Makes you feel …hopeful, yet haunted. People behind me looked confused, but I was choked up by the signs the detainees pressed to the window. ‘Help’, ‘I miss my children’, ‘Hungry’,’ Justice’…”
The Birmingham News reports that the Etowah County Commission approved on Nov. 1 for ICE to lease the third floor of the Etowah County Courthouse, an addition to the space it already leases from the county in the detention center. The Gadsden Times newspaper reported that ICE will pay about $111,000 a year to lease the jail and courthouse space.
Be sure to visit Occupy Birmingham’s facebook page and thank them for standing up for immigrants who are being oppressed by the country’s harshest immigration law.