Reproductive justice is “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities,” according to SisterSong, the national, women of color, Reproductive Justice collective. We advance and secure these rights when we make sure young people get sex ed in their classrooms and we can all afford contraception and healthcare to manage our bodies and have healthy pregnancies. It is integral that if we need to end a pregnancy we can get an abortion. But it is also essential that we stand up for these same rights for immigrant women and families in our state. We must ensure safety, autonomy and liberation regardless of immigration status.
Our human rights should not hinge on documentation. We should all be treated with dignity and respect. These are values we must be willing to stand up for. The Womxn Project is committed to speaking out in solidarity with our many volunteer leaders and our partners protesting the harms caused at the Wyatt Center during a recent protest and the degradation being perpetuated across the country as a result of our broken immigration system and the violence policies of this administration.
Last night’s incident was unfortunate and I’m relieved to hear no one was seriously injured. With that said, I would like for us to remember why the protesters were there. We cannot lose sight of the bigger pictures and the mistreatment that our immigrant community is facing by the Trump Administration. The President has spit out nothing but hurtful policies that affect not only our undocumented families, but also our communities. In 2012, my father was deported to Columbia after living in this country for over 30 years. This has an emotional impact on both my sister and I and still continues to impact our lives. Our nation is made up of immigrants who have come here to better their lives and the lives of their families. They have left their homes and the only country they have ever known to come to a foreign land only to contribute. We as a community cannot lose sight of what is important and that is using our voice to help those who are not able to be heard. – Rep. Karen Alzate, Pawtucket District 60
Personal account by a TWP board member of the recent events at the Wyatt Detention Center where protesters were attacked (please, read and then check out ways to get involved to advance immigrant justice):
The protest began with a rally. The leader of the event told the crowd about a prayer shawl they were wearing and how it had belonged to a relative who survived the Holocaust. They taught us a spiritual song about ancestors as we began to march.
We chanted and sang as we walked through the streets of Central Falls. Residents looked out their windows and cars beeped to show their solidarity.
Shortly after 7pm, we arrived at the Wyatt. We filled the sidewalks on both sides of street in front of the jail. After a few more speeches, chants, and prayers, a small group of protesters approached the jail to deliver a list of demands and ask that the warden come out to talk to us.
Staring up at the jail’s imposing superstructure, we were able to see a few of the incarcerated folks through the narrow slats they call windows. Several of the people detained inside waved at us, banged on the windows, or flashed their lights. At one point one of the organizers led us in a Hebrew Prayer in which we raised our hands to send protective, loving energy to the people inside. I could see at least one of the incarcerated people put their hands against the window in the same gesture, receiving our energy and sending the same back to us.
I say all of this to give you a sense of the atmosphere of the event. We were strong and defiant, but the tenor of the event was somber, calm, and peaceful with a strong spiritual bent.
About an hour had passed, and no one was coming out or telling us to move or leave. By this time several of my fellow protesters had linked arms and were blocking the driveway entrance to the jail. The police were there, but they were leaving us alone. A decision was made to change positions and move to block the entrance to the employee parking lot for the upcoming shift change. We moved there and continued to chant, sing and pray. Several of the protesters formed a chain and sat side by side blocking the entire driveway. I was standing on the corner of the sidewalk. I was not part of the chain that seemed to be seeking arrest, but standing with them in solidarity.
Suddenly a large black pick-up truck whipped down the street and approached the protesters at high speed, stopping just short of them. I am generally a laid back easy going person, but seeing that truck zoom toward my comrades instantly ignited in me a combination of fear and absolute rage. I, along with several other protesters, rushed towards the truck, which was continuing to inch forward despite other protesters still being in front of it. We shouted and banged on the window both to get him to stop and to chide him for his actions.
Then with dozens of protesters surrounding the truck, it lurched forwards. I heard screams and saw several people drop and roll to the ground. This is where my first live video begins. I felt like it was my duty to document what happened.
Watch Tammy’s video of the events described.
As I filmed the driver, I realized he was talking into a radio, making it obvious that he was an employee of the Facility. I could see several men in dark uniforms and vests jogging towards us. By that time, I had linked arms with other protesters determined not to let the truck through. They began to try to strong arm us to get us to move. We tried to hold our ground. Then more screams and the sound of spraying.
I was immediately hit with a cloud of pepper spray. I was disoriented, but could still see a little. I was bending over trying to get my bearings when I was sprayed two more times at close range.
See Steve Ahlquist’s YouTube video “Wyatt Pick-Up Truck”.
I began to stumble towards what I assumed was the street. My vision was getting worse and it was increasingly difficult to keep my eyes open. My entire face and neck felt like they were in fire.
A medic from the John Brown Gun Club took hold of my arm and led me to a small open patch of lawn. They had me sit and eventually lay down while they flushed my eyes with water. They kept encouraging me to try to open my eyes, but I couldn’t. They were clamped tightly shut, a common effect of pepper spray in the eyes.
As they continued to pour water over my face while I fought to open my eyes, there were times I felt like I was drowning. It was weird. No water was anywhere my nose or mouth, but I nevertheless gasped for air. After what seemed like several minutes, I sat up and slowly began to be able to open my eyes. My nose was running like a river, but there were no tissues anywhere, so my savior medic offered me their shirt. I politely declined.
A few days later I’m exhausted. My skin still feels slightly sensitive like after you gotten a sunburn. I feel like things in America and here in Rhode Island are getting worse, not better. But that’s why we keep fighting.” – Tammy Brown, written August 16, 2019
We cannot be silent. We must speak out and organize to push back on this kind of violence against people exercising their right to protest and the very real harms against immigrant women and families in our state. The Womxn Project is proud to support the Alliance to Mobilize Our Resistance. AMOR is a rapid response network providing community support to victims of deportation, police violence and hate crimes in Rhode Island and southern New England. They have several ongoing campaigns focused on immigration.
Upcoming AMOR Events
- Transportation Orientation + ICE Watch Training September 10 from 6:30-9:00 pm in Providence
- 3rd Annual AMOR Lobster Fest: Good Food for a Good CauseSeptember 21 from 12-7pm in Providence — Buy your ticket today!
You can also Donate to AMOR’s Legal Fund to support immigrant families’ legal costs.
Learn more about this amazing organization.
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If you want to connect with organizers for Never Again Action, RI:
email: [email protected]
“Thursday: We are having a press conference on Tuesday, 8/20, at 10am at the statehouse. The press conference will be with the Jewish Alliance and Board of Rabbis, immigration advocacy orgs like AMOR and Fuerza Laboral, and folks from the Central Falls community. There will also likely be legislators present. We will be demanding an end to the Wyatt contract with ICE, an immediate release of all folks being detained by ICE at the Wyatt, and a ban on private prisons in RI (to prevent the Wyatt from being sold to a private prison corp like CCA or GEO group). All are welcome, so please come out if you are able!
Thursday: Finally, we will be having a meeting to continue debriefing the protest and also to start strategizing around next steps on Thursday, 8/22, at 7pm at the SEIU 1199 office, at 319 Broadway in Providence.