Athens for Everyone supports those participating in the nonviolent occupation of Atlanta City Detention Center (ACDC) and encourages Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to rescind the agreements with the US Marshall and immediately cease all ICE detentions at ACDC.
Following the Families Belong Together rally at the ACDC on June 30, some demonstrators decided to remain there, establishing an occupation with tents and a couch. As part of a larger movement that began on June 17th with the occupation of the ICE facility on Portland, Oregon, the demonstrators assert that the process required for deportation and detention can and should be disrupted. By interrupting the work of immigration judges, lawyers, and other officials, ICE can be stopped from efficiently deporting people. The Portland occupation has been successful in disrupting ICE operations for two weeks. Occupations have also happened in Detroit and New York City. A statement released by Occupy ICE NYC says: “We can claim victory, if even only for a day. 201 Varick St. will not send anyone to abusive, inhumane immigration detention facilities tomorrow.”
An executive order signed by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms proclaims that, “until the City of Atlanta receives assurance that this despicable policy of the Trump Administration has been rescinded, I will not allow the City of Atlanta to risk being complicit in separating families as a result of this policy.” However, the City of Atlanta continues to hold 400 ICE detainees in the ACDC, as part of a longstanding agreement with the US Marshall’s office.
Mayor Bottoms’ press release about the executive order defends the agreement to detain immigrants at ACDC by mentioning the substandard conditions at private ICE detention centers, but conditions for detainees at ACDC aren’t much better than those facilities. In May of 2017, Atulkumar Babubhai Patel died from neglect while detained by ICE at ACDC. He was the third person to die in ICE detention in Georgia facilities within a year. Eight people in total died in ICE custody in 2017. Members of Athens for Everyone and allied groups attended demonstrations protesting ICE detentions at ACDC in 2017. At times, when the demonstration noises were at a lull, those in attendance could hear shouts of “ayudame! ayudanos!” (help me! help us!) emanating from the cell blocks. One inmate called the protest organizers from inside ACDC and his voice was broadcast over the PA system as he spoke about the neglect that led to the death of Mr. Patel.
While we appreciate Mayor Bottoms’ taking a strong stance on family separation at the border, we must recognize that all deportations and incarcerations result in family separation. The cruelty of family separations at the border is present in detentions and deportations that follow traffic stops, home invasions and workplace raids. We must recognize that incarcerating and deporting members of our communities, based solely on where they were born, is punitive and cruel whether the cages that hold them are publicly or privately operated.