Press release from the Minnesota Poor People’s Campaign:
Demanding immediate steps to end persecution and deportation of immigrants, 18 Minnesotans were arrested Tuesday morning after they simultaneously blocked the Blue Line light-rail tracks at the Fort Snelling station and an entrance to the nearby Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility at the Bishop Whipple Federal Building.
This act of non-violent civil disobedience was supported by more than 200 poor people, clergy and advocates in separate rallies at both the State Capitol Monday evening and at the Fort Snelling station early Tuesday morning. The actions are part of the national “Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival” and a wave of intensified direct action during the second week of the six- week campaign in 35 state capitals and Washington, D.C.
Before and during the sit-down protest blocking the Blue Line at the Fort Snelling station, activists from churches and immigrant rights groups chanted “No More Deportations’’ and “Abolish ICE’’ and “Si, Se Puede (Yes, We Can). Several immigrants and clergy leaders spoke passionately about first-hand experiences about families being ripped apart and pregnant women and veterans and refugees from political violence being detained or deported. Meanwhile, evidence abounds that immigrants are a net benefit to the national and state economies and most Americans are descendants of immigrants.
Available statistics show that in the first half of fiscal year 2018, (October 2017-March 2018) Minnesota ordered 720 deportations, which is a pace projected to exceed the highest previous year (2013). Meanwhile, authorities in 21 other states have ordered no one to be deported.
“ICE functions outside the boundaries of morality and legality,’’ said Daniel Romero, a member and leader of the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee, and who was himself arrested. “ICE chases people down as if they are hunting animals and they terrorize individuals, families and communities with impunity.’’ (For more background on increased immigrant persecution see Star Tribune commentary by Minnesota’s Poor People’s Campaign co-chairs on May 11 and the website for MIRAC.)
The action on Tuesday was preceded by a rally on the steps of the State Capitol in St. Paul on Monday evening, followed by a short march to the statue of Christopher Columbus on the Capitol Mall. Campaigners festooned the statue with cards and signs that contradicted the explorer’s fame as the “discoverer’’ of the Americas. A handwritten plaque and other signs pasted on the statue documented the role of Columbus and European colonial powers in forced conversion to Christianity, conquest, rape, and economic exploitation of indigenous people in the western hemiphere.
Meanwhile, in Washington D.C., the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a key leader in the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign, was arrested alongside campaign co-chairs the Revs. William Barber and Liz Theoharis, poor people, and clergy who packed the U.S. Capitol rotunda and sat in prayer despite orders from the Capitol police to disperse.