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Report Back from the Tacoma Smash ICE Demonstration

author: Helen, Laury Kenton, and Elliot Stoller / Photographs by Elliot Stoller
Apr 27, 2008 01:40

Tacoma Smash ICE and others marched Saturday as part of the Week of Action against ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) and the Northwest Detention Center. The purpose of the march was to bring attention to the existence of the ICE Detention Center, an immigrant detention center on the tide flats of Tacoma housing 1000 immigrants. It was a spirited march, despite the presence of cops on bicycles and a plastic-shielded riot squad who sought to keep everyone on the sidewalk, no matter what.

The march began at People’s Park and then passed through the Hilltop neighborhood as it made its way toward downtown. The 60 marchers first defied the cops and took to the streets, but then the cops forced them back onto the sidewalks. The marched targeted Wells Fargo Bank for its shareholdings in the GEO Group, the corporation that runs the for-profit detention center. When demonstrators reached Wells Fargo, the role of cops as defenders of private property/capitalism was crystal clear.

The building was cordoned off, and robo-cops lined the plaza, clubs drawn. Later, the march attempted to cross the 11th Street Bridge to get to the detention center, but the bridge had been mysteriously raised. Back in Hilltop, the cops attacked and arrested two young marchers right in front of children playing in a neighborhood park. The arrests were made for no apparent reason, and then cops immediately demanded that everyone leave the "scene of the investigation."

The demonstration brought much-needed attention to the existence of the detention center, a first step towards showing its place in the growing police state. The marchers were energetic and not intimidated by the cops’ show of force. The working people in the neighborhoods were supportive. Residents were shocked by the heavy-handed police presence. They saw cops out in force, dressed in riot gear and swinging billy clubs, clearly trying to intimidate the peaceful marchers.

At one point, the cops began striking the marchers with their bike tires. This caused a minor confrontation. The cops used the arrests as a tactic to split up the demonstration, forcing activists to make their way back to the park by separate routes. According to a witness, one demonstrator was arrested for committing the "crime" of beating a drum.

Despite the aggressive behavior of the cops, the march was a success. The Week of Action against ICE revealed to many the abuses occurring in the ICE Detention Centers. However, we must do more.

To end to the anti-immigrant propaganda and the violent oppression imposed by the ruling class, we need to do more outreach in Tacoma and the whole region. The Tacoma ICE Detention Center is just one facet of the imperialist system as a whole. The struggle against the detention center is connected to the anti-war struggle. It is also connected to the increasing economic and political repression of citizens. Working class, poor and immigrant masses must join together. One sign said it well: "We don't have an immigration problem -- we have a capitalism problem.

Marching downtown
The cops were everywhere
The police tried to force protesters onto the sidewalk
Anarchists ignored the police and continued down the street.
Rubi Ruelas was arrested while walking peacefully down the street.
Carson Churchill (top left) is arrested and taken away as an activist confronts the police.
The 11th Street Bridge was raised to prevent protesters from marching to the prison.
But it didn't stop the protest.

add a comment on this article

Posted by: Tacoman at Apr 27, 2008 18:06

This was a good article, thank you to the author.

One thing that the photos fail to show is the ridiculous amount of riot cops and the excessive force they were using, especially during the arrest. Cops out numbered the protesters, and used a great deal of riot cops to shut down the park.

Excellent coverage! Thank you so much.
Posted by: 143tbone at Apr 28, 2008 09:09

Be The Media! Everyone. Do what this journalist has done. Get out your cameras and learn how to use them. And then spread widely. Everyone that reads this, copy the url and paste it in an email and send it to your lists. That's why indy journalists do what they do. Not so you can see yourselves but that you can spread the report WIDELY!!!!

Biased reporting
Posted by: witness at Apr 29, 2008 06:40

The line "The 60 marchers first defied the cops and took to the streets, but then the cops forced them back onto the sidewalks." doesn't make sense. If the cops forced them back onto the sidewalk, it's not "defiance", or at least a very lame attempt at it. And as one of the residents who watched the 'show' with amusement, you jokers never had the support of myself or my neighbors. How would you feel if a group of masked strangers marched through your neighborhood? We even offered the officers by our neighborhood BBQ some free hamburgers, but they were too busy to accept and graciously explained why. You guys need to focus your protest where the problems are, not in neighborhoods far from the problem.

"witness" has no clue
Posted by: RF at Apr 29, 2008 11:20

To clarify, it seemed that what happened was that the marchers were first led into the street because the cops blocked the way to the sidewalk. We marched for about a block before the cops told everyone to move to the sidewalk, which most if not all did - and this is when the cop attacked the young woman was attacked, who, from what I could tell, didn't get on the sidewalk fast enough. I was about 15 feet behind her, and this all happened very quickly. From what I saw, it was the cops that were out of order - they went after the smallest and youngest protester they could have, seemingly unprovoked.

As far as the people in the neighborhood, there were many people there that expressed support for us and believed the cops to be the uninvited guests in this situation. They were exceedingly brutal, slamming the young woman into a fence and then pulling her up by her hair, followed by pushing another man down, raising their batons up as if to strike, and then yelling and cussing at everyone.

The strange thing about the last comment, is that this person says that we should "focus your protest where the problems are, not in neighborhoods far from the problem", but this is incorrect. This IS where the problems are. The ICE detention facility holds people, without trial, from many communities in the surrounding area - so we're bringing the issue to the community to make people more aware. Not only that, but we TRIED to take the protest to a couple of the locations "where the problems are", but the police stopped us. We went to the Wells Fargo building, the bank that funds this immoral private prison, and it was guarded by dozens of riot police armed with guns and batons. We tried to cross the bridge that would lead us to the ICE facility itself, and it was blocked in order to keep us from going there. The fact is, the community is exactly where we belong. The people in these neighborhoods have for too long been blind to the what has been happening in their own community - a privatized prison that holds people without trial, against their will, and forces them to into low-wage labor for as little as a dollar a day. Do you really believe that a place like this has no repercussions on the actual community?? Not only that, but the anarchists at the march do in fact LIVE in this same community - so where do you suggest they go?

Now whether you're so naive that you believe that police who brutalize young women for doing nothing (right in front of park with children playing in it, I might add) are your friends, is another story. But honestly, I heard several people on that street that day that knew exactly what those monsters represented, and it's state repression.

where da immigrunts?
Posted by: Moonbattery at Apr 29, 2008 14:54

where are all the oppressed folks? All I see in the photo is a group of spoiled white kiddies that have been brainwashed.

Where are the immigrants?
Posted by: anonymous at Apr 29, 2008 18:24

They are all in that damn ICE Detention Center, that's where ...damn ignorant "citizen".

Tacoma Riot
Posted by: anonymous at Apr 29, 2008 23:51

Interesting picture and story from 1935. Same place, almost same story:

Posted by: H.A.A.C. at May 01, 2008 11:15

First off i wanted to say that i think what was done was great! Opposing ICE, all immigration laws, countries and thier false borders is a really important thing to do. i would like to say though that the use of a black bloc is not necessary in this situation. This is for serveral reasons:
1) Black blocs look threatening to people in the community in which the action is taking place. It keeps people whom might other wise support and join your cause from doing so.
2)It asks for more trouble from police. They understand that blocs are used in confrontation situations and there for are more likely to attack your action.
Im not at all saying that black blocs shouldnt be used but in an action like this it would probably be more effective to not. Unless you have the numbers for and the intent of smashing shit(like say burning down the detention center) and being able to defend your selves from police violence it is much more effect to not use the block. I feel that the community is much more likely to support and join us in struggle if we dont look as threatening. There's a time and place for the block but when trying to build community resistance to something like ICE its important to not look as alienating. Thats my two cents.

in solidarity,

Posted by: tacoma rising at May 01, 2008 18:31

attending last years tacoma smash ice march would give you a good idea as to why most of us were blocked. as i walked to the park last year i had no intention of blocking up but as we started to get closer i noticed a shitload of cops most with cameras getting in peoples faces so they could log us in to there data base, they same with this year not planing on blocking up until i noticed cops taking peoples pictures, i personally dont need the harrasment in my day to day life. you might ask why not wear noraml clothing and just wear a mask? well most of us are anarchist we dont own any other color of clothing exept for black, its not our fault we look like a bunch of militant ninjas.