Friday, January 12, 2018

When the City Breaks Your Heart and Inspires You #IstandwithRavi #SolidarityNowSolidarityForever #NoOneIsIllegal! #NoBanNoWall

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Our Executive Director was targeted and detained by ICE yesterday. Now more than ever we need the support and dedication of our volunteers.

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Nationally recognized immigrant rights leader Ravi Ragbir was detained while 
reporting to Immigrationand Customs Enforcement for a routine check-in on 
January 11, 2018 at 26 Federal Plaza in downtown New York City. 
To stop his deportation, faith leaders, city council people, friends and allies
 surrounded the ambulance he was taken away in peacefully blocking its 
departure as it tried to exit the building. For 30 minutes people were 
knocked down, and thrown aside, but then picked themselves back up and 
put themselves back in front of the truck. Over 15 people were reported 
arrested.(Photos by Erik McGregor)
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More photos of A walk Around the Federal Building. 
Diane Greene Lent.  
Photo of this writer with a few friends, Ann and Jenny. 

There are days when the city breaks my heart.

And then it inspires.

And we move forward together, making sense of the opposing forces clashing, clanging, beating and resolving themselves. 

I watched my friends locked up and detained, as others grieved and battled the cops, praying and fighting all day long.

I saw my friends beaten and forcefully arrested, a friend well into her eighth decade pushed to the ground, another arrested for defending a friend. 

None of us were sure what was the best way to stand with Ravi, our friend who was detained by ICE yesterday. 

Emotions welled through many of us.  I wasn't really sure how to respond to the news.  Ravi wasn't dead.  But he was put in a bad situation, one that could threaten his life and in the least, separate him from his family indefinitely, something that may be akin to death. 

Caroline joined us to surround the Federal Building where Ravi was being detained. 

Some of us attempted to block the ambulance taking Ravi out of the Federal Building getting, the police tossing us away, as we regrouped and jumped back in front of the vehicle. 

The fury of the moment overwhelms.

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You watch friends put their livelihoods on the line to support a friend. 
You see your comrades disobey a world saying deporting people is just a part of global trade. 
Love knows no borders.

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Activists from all over the city stood up for Ravi. 

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But I didn't really know what was the right thing to do.
So i stayed in the streets and disobayed because thats what my heart told me to do.
Once the ambulance was gone. I left the streets.
Didn't feel like sitting around waiting to be arrested. 
Others from Rise and Resisters, members of the Judson Community, Monica and Micah, Jenny and Ann were all taking busts to protest this injustice.
There was a lot of emotion watching a friend detained. The shadow of the country is coming through.  In the midst of it all, kinder hearts were fighting to find their way in this dark moment.
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You watch friends take a bust with a smile or a grimace.

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After her arrest, Monica Hunken wrote: 
"Today Ravi Ragbir, an incredible human rights activist, a compassionate and generous community leader, was detained at a routine checkup by ICE. Hundreds of peaceful protestors walked silently around the federal building at Foley Square and waited to hear the news. When the word came down that they were taking him in, we rushed over to block the the vehicle. Police escalated immediately- forcefully grabbing, throwing and throttling us as we tried again and again to place our bodies in the path of the vehicle that was taking Ravi away; away from his family, away from the life and home he had built here over the past two decades.
It is absolutely insidious what they are doing to immigrants and we cannot
So grateful and proud of the community today for coming out so fierce in

At one point I felt so exhausted by the beating up from the cops, I almost
 let my body fall to the ground and give up but then I remembered what we 
are facing in this nation. We cannot let hate write our story. Whenever we
 have an opportunity to stand up to injustice, if we can, we must. 
 stand for it. #ImmigrantRightsAreHumanRights I am so grateful to those 
who accompany people at any time of day or night who have ICE appointments 
and so inspired by the bravery of those who head in, not knowing what their
 fate will be.
When alone, we are vulnerable, but together we are unbelievably strong!
 the street. So sad and angry for Ravi but there is still hope! Please take action!
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Colleen Asper, pictured above, writes: "With all the coverage of what happened yesterday when 
Ravi Ragbir was taken
 in by ICE, there are some things I want to make sure everyone knows.
A well known activist has been DISAPPEARED. We think that Ravi was taken to Bellevue, but neither 
Bellevue nor ICE answered questions from Ravi's wife or lawyer about his location. A federal court has now
responded to an appeal Ravi's lawyers filed yesterday by setting a new hearing for January 29th and issuing
 a temporary stay of removal and a temporary order blocking Ravi's transfer away from the New York region.
This is as ICE’s online detainee locator system lists Ravi as being detained in Florida at the Krome detention f
acility. This means Ravi may have been taken from the hospital to a plane yesterday.
This represents a marked ESCALATION in ICE's approach in NYC. Previously Ravi's status as a well known
 organizer guaranteed an international spotlight which offered him some protection. Last week ICE snatched up 
Jean Montrevil, one of the founders of the New Sanctuary Coalition, despite a motion pending before the Board
of Immigration Appeals and a check-in on the schedule. Yesterday they took Ravi, leader of the New Sanctuary 
Coalition. This is happening on the heels of hundreds of thousands of people losing TSP.
This escalation was met with an incredible display of RESISTANCE yesterday. When they tried to take Ravi out
 of 26 Federal Plaza in an ambulance (in handcuffs) dozens of us fought to stop them. There was literally a 30 minute 
street fight in which I was picked up into the air and tossed aside and pushed by the police more times than I can count 
and watched the same happening all around me. There is footage of protestors being strangled. Each time they cleared 
us out we got back up and more people filled in. The only way that ambulance was able to get through was by backing
 up and then when we ran around to the other side, darting forward. I am so grateful for everyone who fought yesterday 
and especially
for the 18 who were arrested.
And the fight goes on."

I was just part of the multitude. 
After the arrests, Caroline and I tried to warm up.
"Don't cry.  Its something deep in you that is upset and was upset way before this.  Its not this," mon amor told me.
No human is illegal. Free Ravi. Call your senators now, she continued. 
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After coffee, I walked back to Foley Square to find my bike and Donna Schaper and Reverend Billy were speaking.
Some went for jail support. I went home to write.
My friend Andrew Velez from ACT UP met me at the Center a few hours later.   He is perhaps the longest running member of the group still attending regular Monday meetings, three decades and counting.
The only guarantee in activism is that if you don't try, you are going to lose, he counseled me.  So keep on trying, even when you are losing.
"What else are you going to do, let them put a red hot poker up your ass without a whimper?"

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Thanks for the sage advice Mr Velez

Finishing the meeting, I rode to the 5 PM vigil on Houston and Varick, outside the detention center where Ravi was being held.  

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Glad to see you free Reverend Micah Bucey

The light brigade had colored signs that declared: No One is Illegal.  Free Ravi!
A few of us discussed the action and some disagreements about tactics.
"If they take the biggest immigrant organizer in the city and we don't make a stink then what are we saying to them," noted my friend Alexander.
"I may not think much of believe in god, but i don't say anything," noted a friend, referring to the critique of the ambulance action earlier by some of the faith based leaders, which some worried could put Ravi in danger. We need solidarity between movements, which extends to an appreciation for a diversity of tactics.  After all, some people still blame ACT UP and the Civil Rights groups for using civil disobedience, instead of just lobbying. Yet, its hard to imagine any of the civil rights era laws or HIV treatment advances without this practice.  Sometimes patient and polite does not cut it. 
The evening kept going and going. Following the vigil, Erik who had been out all day was giving a talk about his photo documentation of grass roots groups at the New York City Municipal Archives. A few of us who had been at the rally took in the talk.  His photos, including of the action earlier in the day, are consistently magnificent. He tells the story of our lives, inviting our actions into larger conversations, propelling our small actions into images, which tell stories across the globe. He's always there for us.  In his own way, he makes us stars, connecting individual lives with larger social movements. 
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Kim Fraczek with Erik R. McGregor this writer and Wendy Brawer at 

She wrote:

"It was great to see Erik R. McGregor celebrated tonight
for his amazing work."

We talked and explored the archives photos of protests through
the years. 

And then make our way up to a party above the old Times Up!
space in
where we talked and laughed deep into the evening. 

It had been a day of watching our friends share a collective heartbreak

Jumaane Williams was right. 

We are on the right side of history. 

We'd be remembered for that. 

We may not have won on Thursday, but we still had a duty to resist and
fight for our friend's freedom.

At Eric's talk, someone mentioned old adage.

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

She was right.  It is our duty. 
What: Emergency rally in support of Ravi Ragbir, Executive Director of New Sanctuary 
Coalition of New York City
Who:   Community members, faith leaders, elected officials, legal advocates
Where: Foley Square, New York, NY, near 26 Federal Plaza
When:  NOW
New York, NY: Nationally recognized immigrant rights leader Ravi Ragbir was detained today, while reporting to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for a routine check-in. Hundreds are gathered outside the federal immigration building at 26 Federal Plaza in downtown New York City to show solidarity with all those affected by the deportation machine, including Ragbir, when ICE detained him.
Mr. Ragbir is the Executive Director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, a faith-based coalition devoted to immigrant rights.  Ragbir is a fixture in the immigrant rights movement, and was awarded the 2017 Immigrant Excellence Award by the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators, given to those who show “deep commitment to the enhancement of their community.”
New Sanctuary Coalition Co-Chair Rev. Kaji Dousa, Senior Pastor of Park Avenue Christian Church, stated that “Ravi Ragbir means everything to this city. A longtime New Yorker, a husband and a father, Ravi is beloved by all of us who have had the privilege of working with him to make New York a welcoming community for all of its residents. The fact that ICE has taken him as if his spirit, family ties, and contributions to the community mean nothing is inhumane.”
Mr. Ragbir has lived with the threat of deportation for nearly a decade, as the result of a 16-year old conviction for wire fraud. He was placed into removal proceedings in 2006 and spent twenty-two months in immigration detention before being released in February 2008. During immigration detention and since his release, Ragbir has devoted his life to the lives of immigrants, working tirelessly to end the use of immigration detention, stop deportations, and secure relief for countless individuals. Previously, ICE officials had granted Ragbir prosecutorial discretion, including a stay of removal that was in effect until next week.
Mr. Ragbir’s detention comes just days after Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained Jean Montrevil, another immigrant rights leader who was one of the founding members of the New Sanctuary Coalition and who, like Ravi, had been permitted to live with his family in the U.S. pending his legal challenges to his case. “The detention of both Ravi and Jean is an affront to faith-based communities everywhere,” stated Rev. Dr. Chloe Breyer, Executive Director of the Interfaith Coalition of New York City. “People who are willing to speak out against the injustices of the immigration system should not be targeted for deportation. No one should be treated this way."
We Support Ravi!
Posted on 
January 11, 2018To: The People!We Support Ravi!RS
Campaign created by

We pledge to stand together with Ravi Ragbir and his wife Amy Gottlieb. We need Ravi here in New York City. He is our ally, our mentor, our advocate, our friend, our family. He is vital to our community's well-being. We pledge to do everything we are able to keep Ravi here in New York.
We the undersigned, request that ICE extend Ravi Ragbir’s request for prosecutorial discretion. Long time resident, community activist, father, and husband, Ravi Ragbir, faces permanent exile from his life in the US. A green card holder since 1994, Ravi has worked as an organizer to protect the rights of all immigrants, including through the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City.
Ravi experienced the worst of the deportation system. An immigration judge ordered Ravi deported without granting him a hearing on the issue, denying Ravi the opportunity to present evidence of his character and strong community ties. He was detained for years in New Jersey and Alabama, far from his community and his young daughter. Ravi’s case underscores one of the fundamental flaws of our broken immigration system: the need to reform our deportation laws, including by allowing judges to exercise discretion in a case based on the facts presented. Before 1996, judges had the discretion to weigh all of the relevant facts in a case before deporting an immigrant. One of the major injustices in Ravi's case is that, during his removal proceedings, the judge was prohibited from considering whether Ravi should be allowed to stay in the U.S. because our current law forbids it.
After securing his release from indefinite immigration detention, Ravi continued to challenge the immigration judge’s order and became active in supporting other immigrants who were facing similar challenges. Through that activism, he met, fell in love with, and eventually married, Amy Gottlieb, a U.S. Citizen and fellow immigrant rights activist. Despite being eligible to adjust his status to that of permanent resident based on his marriage, the Board of Immigration Appeals’ denied Ravi’s request for an opportunity to be heard. Ravi is currently pursuing new legal avenues to reopen his immigration case so that he can remain in the U.S., the place he has called home for over twenty years, with his wife and daughter.
His deportation would be tragic for his wife, Amy, his daughter, Deborah, and the community that loves and respects him. Please take the necessary steps to keep Ravi here with his community.

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