The past few weeks at CLUE (Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice) have been great. I have been able to work on job skills such as time management that I will benefit from in college and the future. But it has also taught me many lessons on how to be an activist and ways to stand up for what I believe in.
Over spring break, I joined CLUE for a Prophetic day of action in front of the ICE detention center. A march began at the plaza near Olvera Street and headed to the main public entrance of the ICE facility where clergy spoke and the crowd chanted. But it wouldn’t be left at just that. The group of roughly 70 clergy and protesters rounded the corner, blocked Aliso Street and crowded around the ICE detention center van driveway Islamic, Christian, and Passover services were held on the spot.
As the short but sweet services wrapped up, thumping noises could be heard from above. Immigrant, refugee, and asylum seeker detainees in the windows above were trying to establish communications with us. A band played outside and banners were unfurled below. As the crowd waved and hollered in support, the thumping grew louder. It was a sobering experience to interact with those living in fear behind the bars of ICE detention.
A human chain of 35 religious leaders and community organizers formed around the driveway. The police said they didn’t want to arrest us because of the nonviolent nature, lack of law enforcement supplies, and the bad press that would ensue. They told the chain that they could block the driveway all day and through the night. In response, the chain said they would block all entrances to the complex and if still not arrested, they threatened to block the highway. Such arrests would clearly show that Los Angeles religious leaders are having none of the ICE aggression and are willing to go the extra mile to put an end to it.
Law enforcement finally agreed to commence the arrests and the paddy wagons reluctantly rolled in. No one resisted and the arrests were made in a remarkably “civil” and seemingly cordial manner. Civil rights protest songs were played as the officers escorted the arrestees into the paddy wagons. Within half an hour, the human chain was released and the event was over.
I found the action to be very meaningful. I thought about my duty as a Jew to stand up for those living in fear of persecution and in search of a safe haven, just as my ancestors did, especially on Passover, a holiday of remembering such times as the Jews fled oppression and trying times in Egypt.
Photos curtesy of the LA Times and the Jewish Journal.