By Kat Lonsdorf
Anti-deportation activists gathered outside the Chicago Police Department District One headquarters to await the release of 12 protesters arrested after blocking traffic during morning rush hour Tuesday.
The early-morning protest was in response to a recent increase in immigration raids across the country, leaving many undocumented immigrants living in fear of being deported.
Protesters demanded an end to deportation raids and chained themselves to ladders outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building at 101 W. Congress Pkwy., blocking traffic during one of the busiest times of day and making it difficult for police to remove them quickly. Eventually, the fire department had to be called in to cut bike locks off from around some protesters’ necks in order to safely pull them from the street.
Somewhat ironically, protesters were arrested after being freed from the locks and chains.
The only protesters arrested were the ones who blocked traffic, according to protest organizer Tania Unzueta with the advocacy group Organized Communities Against Deportation (OCAD).
The demonstration was over by about 9:15 a.m., but many moved to the Chicago Police Department at 1718 S. State St. to wait for those who were arrested.
[vimeo 155600945 w=474]
Francisco Salgado, a college student at Triton College, was among those waiting. Salgado is undocumented; he came to the United States from Mexico when he was just two years old. His mother, also undocumented, was one of the protesters arrested.
“I’m just proud of her,” he said. He got quiet and then said again, “I’m just really proud of my mom.”
Salgado said that his mom knew she would probably be arrested when she left the house Tuesday morning, and decided to protest despite the risks that come with being undocumented and in police custody.
Tania Unzueta was busy making phone calls on behalf of those arrested, saying in between calls that members of OCAD were at the police station partially to be available in case any of the undocumented people who were arrested should need help if immigration became involved.
Unzueta said she thought it was unlikely that any of today’s arrests would result in deportation.
“Anytime an undocumented person gets arrested there’s definitely risk and it goes on their record, but in our experience whenever there’s an action this public, [ICE] usually doesn’t intervene,” she said.
The mood outside the police station was one more of solidarity than of worry. People brought donuts and coffee and huddled together under blankets to ward off the cold. They laughed and socialized while they waited.
Police communicated what they could, and offered the department’s restroom facilities to those outside.
Unzueta said the main point of waiting was to make sure those arrested knew their efforts were appreciated. The group intended to stay as long as necessary until all 12 protesters were released.
“We’ve been at this since six in the morning, so we expect them to be cold, to be hungry, to want their phones back. We just want to be here for them,” Unzueta said.
The Chicago Police Department confirmed that 12 people had been arrested at the protest, but declined any further comment.
Update: All 12 protesters were released on Tuesday evening, according to Chicago Police.
Raquel Zaldivar contributed reporting.