Eleven Arrested while Protesting Stewart Detention Center, including One Atlantan
(APN) LUMPKIN, Georgia — On November 21, 2015, over 1,400 people came from across the U.S. for the ninth annual “Shut It Down” march on Stewart Detention Center. It was the largest protest yet against the private Correction Corporation of America’s (CCA) for-profit prison.
Up to 1,750 immigrants are held at CCA without due process or the right to legal counsel for long periods of time for civil proceeding before they are deported.
These immigrants are not terrorists. They are fleeing persecution, violence, and poverty in their counties. They just want a chance to work and feed their families.
“The United States is creating the conditions that force people to migrate with treaties like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and policies of intervention and destabilization, ” Azadeh Shahshahani, past president of the National Lawyers Guild, said.
NAFTA dumped cheap corn in Mexico, resulting in farmers not being able to make a living.
Eleven people were arrested for crossing the line and entering detention property, in solidarity with the incarcerated immigrants, including one 81 year-old woman dressed as Lady Liberty.
Kevin Caron, with Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition, who was arrested, lives in the Atlanta area.
Other people who were arrested came from Tennessee, Michigan, Oregon, Illinois, and California.
Everyone was released later that day and fined one hundred dollars each. They were not charged with anything.
Lumpkin–with only 1,300 residents–does not have a jail large enough to hold that many people.
The annual march to “Expose and Shut Down Stewart” began in 2007 with a hunger strike by the inmates for better conditions, like basic health care and eatable food. Today, there is a growing movement of hunger strikes in immigration detentions centers around the county.
Speakers announced that nine other detention centers are on hunger strikes for inhumane treatment, rotten food, inadequate to no health service, limited to no access to lawyers, solitary confinement, and indefinite detention without due process,
Don Hutto Detention Center is named for one of the founders of CCA.
The women at Hutto are on a permanent rotating hunger strike.
With ongoing and persistent human rights abuses and violations at immigrant detention centers, Anton Flores-Maisonet, co-founder of Alterna, told the gathering, “We are calling for the abolition of immigration detention centers.”
People impacted by Stewart spoke, telling their stories.
One young man, Mario, was imprisoned at only 17 years old and said he was traumatized.
“It was like living in a chicken coop,” he said. He lived in a room with 65 men and only two urinals, three toilets, and five showers for eight months. He was brought to the United States when he was two months old and is now a U.S. citizen.
“I’m not a criminal or a terrorist. My only crime was not having a license and not knowing I was an illegal immigrant,” Mario told APN.
A woman, who is a candidate for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), spoke at a workshop preceding the rally and also at the rally.
She told how her husband was going to work and was stopped in Cobb County for having a tail light out, when the police officer discovered he did not have a driver’s license.
The officer reportedly said, “You’re are going back to where you belong, Beaner,” before the woman’s husband was taken to Stewart and deported.
A mother of six children spoke about her husband being arrested for having the same last name as another man the police were looking for.
He showed documents to prove who he was, but the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer said, “I don’t care,” and ordered his arrest.
He was deported, and his children, who are U.S. citizens, cry for him, while his wife works seven days a week to support their children.
Speakers also repeatedly linked U.S. military training, of other countries, at Fort Benning’s WHINSEC (Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly known as “School of the Americas”), with the subsequent terror unleashed in Latin America and South America, from which thousands have had to flee, many seeking asylum in the U.S.
The following video shows a workshop that was held prior to the Expose and Shut Down Stewart march: