Immigrants are the 99%: Protestors Call out Essex County Freeholders
Last Wednesday, a few dozen dedicated community members gathered in the cold rain pounding down on Military Park to protest the expansion of immigrant prison for profit in Newark, NJ. They were joined by members of the Occupy Newark protest as they marched to the local branch of Wells Fargo, the office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and finally to the Hall of Records. Kathy O’Leary, who started the petition to stop the expansion of an immigrant detention center in Essex County, NJ, led the group as they marched through the rainy Newark streets chanting “jobs not jails” and “immigrants are the 99%”.
As Kathy noted in a Facebook post earlier this week: “The real drama, however, was at the freeholder meeting.” The Essex County Freeholders are responsible for the proposed expansion of a new immigrant detention center as a way to generate revenue for the county. While last week’s meeting did not include a vote on this expansion, the meeting was open to public comments from those in attendance – and you can bet that the rain-soaked protestors had a few things to say. The Freeholders, who were attending a “holiday celebration” when the marchers arrived, were served a major reality check after their holiday fun.
From Kathy: “About 20 people testified in opposition to the ICE contract. We tied up their meeting for at least an hour. Reverend Moacir Weirich was brilliant. He asked the freeholders to reflect on how their actions would be perceived in the long-view of history and made a reference to how slavery was also justified because it was economically expedient”.As a result of about an hour of public testimony in opposition to the ICE contract they were not able to get through the entire agenda”.
While the Freeholders brushed aside many of the claims made by protestors, it is clear that there strong opposition to the contract moving forward. They heard testimony about the more than 3,000 people who have signed the Change.org petition – and were hand delivered stacks of signed petitions – to stop the expansion. One commenter even read direct quotes from signers from Essex about why this was important to them.
Tomorrow, another Freeholder meeting will take place and Kathy has plans to make sure the room is packed – and there are even more signatures to deliver. She – and the rest of the community standing behind her – is doing it for families like the Pereiras – whose father is in jail in Essex County after 20 years of hard work here in the United States. You can find details on tomorrow’s freeholders meeting here. If you haven’t already, sign Kathy’s petition and spread the word. Tell the Essex County Freeholders: immigrants are people, not profits.
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