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Why We Shut ICE Down For A Day

Young Protesters See Activism Extending Past the Elections

YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia, Commentary//Photos//Video, Words: Sagnicthe Salazar//Photos: Florencia Garcia//Video: Min Lee & Eming Piansay Posted: Nov 04, 2008

Editor's Note Ahead of the Nov. 4 election, with all eyes on the presidential race, hundreds of young people amassed in front of the Homeland Security offices in downtown San Francisco in what some say is the first in a series of civil disobedience style protests to stop ICE raids against immigrants. Sagnicthe Salazar, 21, is a Bay Area based organizer , student, and educator. Florencia Garcia, is a San Francisco based photographer. Min Lee is an editor at YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia.

SAN FRANCISCO Last week hundreds of youth, families and organizers from over 10 different cities in the Bay Area gathered at the Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) building in San Francisco to demand an end to ICE raids, to demand that all detention centers be shut down and to demand real sanctuary cities.

For that day the community prevented ICE from breaking into our homes, and terrorizing our people. Crowds of young and old, black, white, Asian and Raza gathered around the police blockade chanting, speaking and singing in the rain.

VIDEO: Sights and sounds from the ICE protest.

We sent a clear message that immigrant communities are powerful and we are no longer willing to allow ICE agents, police agents, city officials or any laws to intimidate us.

The day began with young people walking out of their local high schools and heading to BART stations to get to Ferry Park in San Francisco, where people began preparing for the march to the ICE building. People dressed in black, with their faces painted as skulls, representing the many people who have fallen victim to the attacks on immigrants both here in the Bay Area as well as on the border.

Many carried signs, some with the same message that hung from placards on Treasure Island: "If Capital Can Cross Borders, So Can We!" At ICE headquarters, the crowd formed a huge circle with speakers highlighting the connection between the diverse communities that are affected by deportations and raids. It was an amazingly powerful day on which youth disrupted business as usual at the ICE building, preventing ICE from disrupting the lives of entire communities.

After Nov. 4th, this issue cannot be forgotten. Whether Obama or McCain win, there is no guarantee that the raids will stop.

No matter who comes into office there is still a huge border wall being built between the United States and Mexico. Corporations are still being allowed to take their business freely across the border, while forcing families to either work as cheap labor in their home countries or to cross the border in search of better jobs.

The protest drew hundreds of protestors and might have attracted more had BART officials not shut down train stations and police arrested students.

Eleven young people chained themselves to barrels and lock boxes in drive ways near the building, preventing ICE vans from exiting or entering the premises.

One of the goals of the protest was to bring immigrant issues to light, at a time when few politicians are talking about the injustices that are being committed against immigrants.

As no politician is willing to talk about police check points targeting immigrants, or the raids at all hours of the day and night with no warrant and no due process followed, or about difficulties of trying to live in this country without a way to attain legal documentation, young people took the streets to talk about what no politician is willing to talk about.

Just last week, 20 families in San Francisco had their homes broken into during a raid at four in the morning by ICE agents, who violently arrested people in the homes, breaking windows and doors. They even shot tear gas into houses as children slept in their beds.

In early October in Oakland -- a so-called sanctuary city, a 15-year-old girl spoke about her fear of going to school after experiencing an ICE raid on an bus at 8 a.m. on her way to school. She escaped the raid by hopping out of the emergency exit after seeing ICE agents stop the bus and harassing anyone who looked Latino.

As she fled the scene, she saw people stepping out of the bus and being asked to stand in a line against the wall as agents went down the line to ask people their legal status. She saw the agents take people who were not able to show documentation onto another bus. Now she says she doesn't feel safe going to school, being on the streets or even being at home. Young people at the protest last week were there to say that enough is enough.

No matter who gets elected we need change, and not just in words, we need actions. We need to end free trade agreements that make immigration a forced migration, we need a clear process towards legalization of undocumented immigrants, we need an immediate end to the ICE raids and we need police that "protect and serve" rather than collaborate with ICE in their acts of domestic terrorism.

Most importantly, we need people to be treated as human beings. Until that happens young people and communities will continue to take to the streets and to shut down agencies that play a role in terrorizing our communities.

Related Articles:

Operation Devil Horns: Salvadorans Targeted in Anti-Gang ICE Raids

Postville Raid Targets Tell Their Own Stories

ICE Conducts 1,172 Raids in 11 Months

The Postville 28 -- Women Immigrants Fight to Stay in U.S.

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