Protest brings together East Bay residents in support of immigrant communities
Local organizations in support of immigration rights gathered in protest on Tuesday, Feb. 21, to demand that Alameda County Sheriff Gregory J. Ahern rescind his policy of participating in mass deportations in cooperation with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE).
Over 500 protesters gathered for the “Not My Sheriff! Not My President! No More Deportations! March,” which wove its way through the streets of downtown Oakland from the Federal Building to Sheriff Ahern’s Office near Lake Merritt.
The peaceful protest united many local organizations that support immigrant rights, including Causa Justa – Just Cause, Acudir (Alameda County United in Defense of Immigration Rights), Oakland Rising, and Anakbayan East Bay.
Marchers held up hand-made signs and large red and white banners that read, “Protect” and “Resist.”
The march paused at 14th Street and Broadway in downtown Oakland, as speakers discussed Trump’s immigration policy, the current ICE raids, Alameda County as a Sanctuary County, and Sheriff Ahern’s cooperation with ICE.
Megan Zapanta from Anakbayan East Bay, a Filipino youth and student organization, spoke about the reasons Filipinos have had to emigrate from their home country. Zapanta related that over 6,000 Filipinos left their country every day.
She observed that that many people weren’t leaving the country by choice. She said they were forced out because of “neoliberal and imperialistic U. S. policies that carefully shaped the economy of the Philipines so that its most valuable export was its labor force.
Zapanta also explained that “US corporations plunder our resources, destroy our environment, and profit off our land,” referring to US policy in the region.
“We have no national industries of our own,” she said, “so we are forced to go abroad for work.”
The protesters then gathered in front of Sheriff Ahern’s office. Speaker Kitzia Esteva from Acudir spoke as more and more police gathered on the office steps.
Esteva explained that “he’s allowing ICE to take people from our communities through his jail.”
According to records obtained by the East Bay Express, over the past two years the Alameda County Sherff’s Office has “notified ICE of the release dates of 339 individuals held in Alameda County’s jails through the Obama-era deportation system known as the Priority Enforcement Program.
“ICE uses release time information to show up and arrest people when they’re let out of the Sheriff’s jail, mainly the Santa Rita facility in Dublin.”
Alternatively, protesters showed support for the California Values Act (Senate Bill 54), introduced by California Senate President Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), which aims to protect Californians by ensuring that state and local resources are not used for federal mass deportations that will separate families and potentially impact the state’s economy.
“To the millions of undocumented residents pursuing and contributing to the California Dream, the State of California will be your wall of justice,” León said.
He also devoted time to assuring immigrants that they would be protected from the incoming Administration’s adoption of inhumane and over-reaching mass-deportation policies.
“We will not stand by and let the federal government use our state and local agencies to separate mothers from their children.”
The California Senate Public Safety Committee approved Senate Bill 54, by a 5-2 vote on January 31, 2017, which has gone to the Senate Appropriations Committee for approval.
The “Not My Sheriff! Not My President! No More Deportations! March” is part of a national movement, #ResistTrumpTuesdays, in which People’s Action affiliates around the country have pledged to stage public events every Tuesday.
The organization says that “in resistance to President Trump’s agenda and to strengthen our movement for a people-and-planet agenda that serves the needs of all people, not just the wealthy and powerful.”