Thursday, March 9, 2017

"I see a wall of love...." Solidarity Rally Against Deportation, Sanctuary Now and Forever

"I see a wall of love...."  Ravi declared looking out a sea of bodies at Foley Square, elected representatives, members the Sanctuary Movement, Rise and Resist were there, people who'd participated in the women's strike the day before, the Church of Stop Shopping, and ACT UP were there. It seemed all of New York was there.

This is our New York! Immigrants are New York!

Members of the congregation at Ravi's church, Judson Memorial, were there. For Judson, "Sanctuary is a strategy we choose driven both by patriotism and the decisive compassion cultivated through Christian practice. No one is a stranger or a foreigner to God." 

"We are Ravi!" the crowd screamed.  "We are Ravi!"

On Sunday, the church bulletin announced:

Ravi Ragbir, the Executive Director of the New Sanctuary Coalition, has had an immigration case for many years. Because of his status, Ravi is required to regularly check-in at ICE offices. Ravi’s next check-in is on Thursday, March 9th at 10:00 a.m. The President has made it clear that people like Ravi are priorities for deportation. We want to make sure that when Ravi checks in Thursday, March 9th, he returns to his family and to the community he has fought for. Meet us at 26 Federal Plaza on Thursday, March 9th, at 9:00 a.m to accompany Ravi.

So all of New York arrived to accompany Ravi and others from the Sanctuary movement for their check ins and hold a rally in their support.

The invitation for the rally announced:

New York City families deserve dignity and respect. The President’s recent actions on immigration are tearing our communities apart. Each day, dozens of New Yorkers facing deportation must check-in with ICE Officers at 26 Federal Plaza. When they enter the building, they don’t know if they will be able to see their families again. Now more than ever it is important to show solidarity in the face of policies that threaten our communities.

Join us for a Jericho Walk to stand with individuals and families facing deportation. This interfaith act of solidarity will bring together advocates and supporters to show immigrants that they are not alone.

At 9am, we will assemble for a press conference. At 10am, we will... begin the Jericho Walk, circling the building in silence and thoughtful prayer.

Though we walk in silence, our actions speak to the injustices that our communities face.

We call today for a system that:
* puts an end to the detentions and deportations that shatter immigrant lives and families
* protects the rights of all workers, immigrant and non-immigrant alike
* enshrines our shared values of justice, compassion, kindness and generosity
* gives immigrant communities the Right to Remain with their families, with their communities, in their schools, and in their places of worship

Brooklyn Defender Services
Detention Watch Network
Families for Freedom
Immigrant Defense Project
LatinoJustice PRLDEF
Make the Road New York
MinKwon Center for Community Action 민권센터
New York Civil Liberties Union - NYCLU
The New York Immigration Coalition
Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights
UnLocal, Inc.

Arriving I talked with members of my congregation at Judson memorial.  We shared our hopes that Ravi would remain free after his check-in. But there are so many others going through the same process. We needed to remember all of them.  Still Ravi is our friend.  We know him.  He educates students at my college, opens the space for organizing, and solidarity.

Everyone seemed on edge.

Jumaane Williams, the Council member for the 45th District of the New York City Council, suggested that history would recall that the defenders of immigrants, the supporters of democracy, would be considered the hero's. Ravi would be considered a hero.

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New York Comptroller Scott Stringer noted: "as the man who does the books for this town, I have to mention immigrants our economic base.  As a Jewish man I have to support my Muslim brothers and sisters.  First they   came for the Muslims, then the Jews, then everyone else."

We listened at the press conference.

And then walked Ravi to the federal building, singing we shall overcome as we walked, surrounded by religious leaders,  then media, and then supporters ready to lay in the street if Ravi was not released.  Singing we implicitly linked the immigrant rights struggle with the unfinished civil rights movement of a generation ago.

I talked with my friend Mel about his zap of president Clinton at the HRC dinner, featured in the
Still We Rise documentary.

Tim Murphy, Micah and I talked.

And we found out Ravi was released.
But another member of the Sanctuary detained during his check in.
So it was a bittersweet moment, but one we would savor.  There is more to do.

Still, people were excited Ravi had made it out.

Leaving, Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping were singing the old freedom song:

(Ain't Gonna Let Nobody) Turn Me Around

Ain't gonna let nobody turn me around
Turn me around, turn me around
Ain't gonna let nobody turn me around
Keep on a-walkin', keep on a-talkin'
Gonna build a brand new world

The movement to support Ravi and all immigrants represents a vital form of mutual aid. Today, this aid is expanding everywhere.  We're not gonna nobody turn us around.

We will continue to do just this -  resist hate.

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