“Estamos contigos. Les oyemos. No les olvidamos.”
By Kathy Stadler
With so many events taking place around the immigration travesty, it seems one may have gone under-noticed. During the PICO California statewide day of action today, it was clear that the people being detained at the Otay Mesa Detention Center, could hear the protesters outside and tried to make contact – shouting and drumming.
PICO California, “the largest multi-racial faith-based community-organizing network in the state” organized a statewide weekend of action that began on Friday evening at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church. Faith leaders, PICO volunteers, and others came from across the state (including but not limited to Redondo Beach, Santa Ana, San Francisco, Bakersfield, and Fresno) for the Let Our Children Go action.
Friday evening included a vigil, interfaith service, and a training in non-violent civil disobedience. Many folks spent the night at the church and started organizing early Saturday for the action at the Otay Mesa Detention Center. Posters and noisemakers were made, blessings were written to send to people inside the Center, peacekeeping was organized, more tactics of non-violent civil disobedience were taught. Just after noon, hundreds headed to the Detention Center.
From the Times of San Diego:
Bishop Robert McElroy of the San Diego Roman Catholic Diocese said he grieved for the “hurt and wrong” suffered by the detainees treated as rejects.
“But even more, we grieve this day for the soul of our nation,” he told the crowd as he stood on the back of a flatbed truck.
“I grieve because I think of the fact that if Mary and Joseph and Jesus had come to our border last week as refugees, the child Jesus would have been ripped from [Mary’s] arms and put in a cage.”
While a small crew set up a sound system and a makeshift stage in the back of a truck, just east of the Detention Center buildings, hundreds staged to march from nearby to the Center.
As the marchers neared the Center’s buildings, chanting “We Believe That We Will Win” and “Les Amamos” (we love you) and “El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido,” (the people united will never be defeated) shouts could be heard from inside the Center.
The marchers went silent. It was clear that the people being detained inside the Center could hear those outside. A number of marchers were choked up and teary-eyed. Other marchers chanted out –
“We are with you. We hear you. We will not forget you.”
“Estamos contigos. Les oyemos. No les olvidamos.”
The marchers continued to a short event with remarks from faith leaders, State Senator Kevin DeLeon, and community activists before a group entered the Detention Center property to act in civil disobedience – demanding to see the people inside. A drummer marked their journey into the center with a steady drumbeat.
At the same time, marchers covered the Core Civic sign with one stating, “Concentration Camp.” Core Civic is a private prison company that owns and runs the Otay Mesa Detention Center, among many others. Soon the sign became an altar, with people leaving toys, clothing, and blankets in honor of the children taken from their parents by the federal government.
From the Union-Tribune
Jerry Berger of Carmel Valley said he decided to join the Otay Mesa event after reading about it on his phone Saturday morning.
“It’s the first demonstration I’ve done since the 1960s,” Berger said. “I think I went up to Delano to protest with Cesar Chavez.
“This has really moved me,” he said of the immigration crisis. “I am so glad to be here. I feel like I’ve been all talk, and haven’t done anything. This makes me feel less guilty.”
More chanting and prayers took place from the large gathering.
Before the action ended and those trying to enter the facility had all returned, many marchers lined the sidewalk paralleling the Center.
One powerful moment took place that struck every heart.
The drummer outside maintained a constant rhythm. When the marchers quieted, the same rhythm could be heard coming from inside the facility. It seemed connected and with the presence of the faith community had the feeling of a call and response. The people inside were communicating and making it clear that they heard the protest and were joining it. To some, it sounded like two heartbeats becoming one.
Some marchers took to their knees to pray. Others shouted into the facility to ask, “Are there children with you? How are you being treated?” and to say, “We love you. We hear you. We’re with you. We won’t forget you.”
Most marchers returned to buses and cars to go back to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. A small group from Generation Justice blocked the road going to and from the Center, chaining themselves together.
UPDATE: The protesters were able to successfully keep a whole shift of Core Civic employees from going home after their shift ended, for 7.5 hours. Seven people were arrested for peaceful civil disobedience. All have been bailed out.
More Photos From Otay Mesa (Courtesy Kathy Stadler)
At the CoreCivic detention facility in Otay Mesa, just steps from the border. Protesters are chanting outside — and people inside are answering. pic.twitter.com/eSZ0HZPH07
— Brooke Binkowski (@brooklynmarie) June 23, 2018
Credit: Brooke Binkowski / http://snopes.com .