Occupy ICE is Blockading ICE Headquarters in San Francisco
Guest Post by Lia Russell
In response to the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy of separating families from their children at the U.S.-Mexico border, thousands across the nation have mobilized to “occupy” their nearest ICE facilities and in response to the mass roundups and detentions that have become the norm under Trump. The Occupy ICE movement started in Portland, where on June 17 protestors overtook and surrounded the ICE facility there with a makeshift campsite. Tents lined the property, with protestors blocking vehicles from being able to enter or exit the facility. On Wednesday, June 19, the facility was forced to close.
Since then, the movement to occupy ICE facilities has spread across the country in cities like Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. Beginning on July 2, anti-ICE protestors began blockading the downtown San Francisco ICE headquarters, building on the momentum that Occupy ICE PDX has started, even after law enforcement arrested protestors and broke up the Portland camp.
After a July 2 rally that began at 3 p.m., protestors opted to stay and block the San Francisco facility instead of disbanding. Overnight, the number of protestors swelled, following a social media campaign to donate food, blankets, bedding, water and other supplies. This came on the heels of a massive turnout on Saturday when millions across the country attended Keep Families Together marches. In the Bay Area, there was a march from Dolores Park to City Hall where a rally jointly hosted by Keep Families Together, Indivisible SF, and the Women’s March SF took place. On the same day, more than three thousand banded together to protest West County Detention Facility in Richmond, where Contra Costa County has a contract agreement with ICE.
During the daytime, SF occupiers have been holding workshops on topics ranging from Know Your Rights to the relationship between the private prison industry and ICE. On 4th of July, there was a Block ICE Block Party, not as an Independence Day celebration, but one of resistance. “There’s no possibility of being passive in a moment of such violence, of such violence being inflicted,” says one occupier who asked not to be identified.
Most occupiers are unaffiliated, though the San Francisco chapter of Democratic Socialists of America has been taking donations to pay for supplies such as food, tents, and water. The camp itself has been self-sustaining, with a fully stocked kitchen, sound systems, barricades blocking ICE building entries and exits and its own security team. So far, no one has been arrested, though legal help is on hand to assist.
Even the “Abolish ICE” movement has picked up steam and mainstream Democrats are beginning to embrace it, occupants’ demands remain radical. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, normally among the more progressive wing of the Senate, are calling for a “restructuring of ICE” instead of its total abolition.
In contrast, occupants are demanding an end to borders, mass incarceration, and nations in addition to immediately abolishing ICE, recognizing the violence of America’s immigration policies and its genocide against Native Americans long before Trump’s child separation policies were ever proposed. “Nothing can make it right and whole,” says Rose, a member of DSA-SF. “I’m less interested in punishing and more in ‘how do we help the communities heal’…to empower communities, and [help] people make their needs known.”
Lia Russell is a freelance writer from SF. You can find more of her stuff at liaruss.com