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Protesters "occupy," briefly shut down Detroit ICE office

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Detroit’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office was shut down for a brief time Monday morning, as activists protesting U.S. immigration policies blocked driveways outside the ICE office.

It's part of a larger protest that aims to "occupy" Detroit ICE headquarters this week.

Detroit Police and U.S. Homeland Security were both at the scene Monday, and gave protesters repeated orders to disperse. They eventually did around 11 a.m., with Homeland Security officers clearing the blockades and breaking open security gates. No arrests were made.

Detroit ICE spokesman Khaalid Walls said that normal "operations were briefly disrupted this morning at the ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations, office but essential functions have since resumed."

Protesters say they may take additional "direction action," though. Some began setting up camp just outside the building and protesting along Jefferson Avenue this weekend, as part of their planned "occupation."

Spokesman Robert Jay wouldn’t reveal more specific plans, but says the “initial short term goal” is straightforward: “We want to completely blockade this facility, completely impede any progress for continuing their pogrom against immigrants.”

Jay says organizers convened to talk tactics, and prepare for possible confrontations with law enforcement, before the office opens for business on Monday.

“It’s not something to be taken lightly,” Jay said. “And we need to make sure that everyone is prepared, they understand their rights, and we understand how to work with police liaisons.”

The protesters are calling for drastic changes to current U.S. immigration policies, including halting the separation of families through deportation, and stopping the mass incarceration of immigrants and asylum seekers in jails and detention centers across the country. They’re also calling for abolishing ICE altogether.

The Detroit protest was inspired by similar actions in other parts of the country. It comes as the Trump administration aggressively enforces a “zero tolerance” unauthorized border-crossing policy, sparking an uproar over the separation of migrant children from their parents, and possible plans for “austere” detention camps on U.S. military bases.

Kate Stenvig is with the group By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), one the groups behind the Occupy ICE Detroit protest. She says this is part of an increasingly direct and action-oriented protest movement against President Trump and his policies.

“It’s only a mass movement, direct action that’s going to get rid of him,” Stenvig said. “We’re going to be in the street fighting, at the border shutting down the detention camps, shutting down this ICE office in Detroit.”

The Detroit ICE office handles immigration enforcement across Michigan and Ohio. Jay says a core group of protesters plan to camp out along office grounds for a week “at minimum.”

Large immigration policy protests are planned for Detroit and cities across the country on June 30.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.