Filed under: Action, Anti-fascist, Central, Immigration, Police
Report back from recent ‘Confront La Migra Where They Live” action in Aurora, Colorado.
On Sunday May 3rd, my partner and I masked up to drive out to a shopping center parking lot in Aurora, Colorado, which was the designated meeting point for the latest in a series of car bloc rallies protesting ICE, GEO Group, and their collaborators. This was the second time a coalition of activist organizations mounted a direct action protest at the home of a high-level official who runs the GEO detention center for ICE in Aurora. Putting pressure directly on these administrators is incredibly important because they are the few people with the power to grant emergency clemency for detained immigrants during this pandemic.
The first Confront La Migra rally (organized as a march last fall) drew a counter-presence from neighbors, Proud Boys, and police – becoming national news for the right-wing outrage machine. A report from that action can be found here.
As such, the mood in the air as we arrived was positive (and socially-distanced), but nervously cautious. The first appearance of counter-protesters began there in that parking lot, with a tough guy dork in Trump regalia posting up alone on the sidewalk and numerous people yelling angrily from their cars as they rolled by.
On May 3, 2020 a coalition of Denver-based organizations including Abolish ICE Denver, the Denver Communists Colorado People's Alliance Showing Up for Racial Justice – SURJ Denver AFSC & Coloradans For Immigrant Rights and Immigrant Justice Alliance hosted a COVID-19 safe car demonstration. Nearly 100 participants drove out to the neighborhoods of Acting ICE Director for Colorado & Wyoming, John Fabbricatore and Aurora GEO Warden Johnny Choate, two top immigration officials and actors in the genocidal and racist campaign being waged by ICE GEO and DHS on immigrants & refugees. Abolish ICE Denver demanded the immediate release of all detainees at the GEO Detention Center in Aurora, CO. COVID-19 is a threat to every person detained and employed at GEO, and the GEO Group and ICE cannot be trusted with anyone’s safety. Aurora GEO has long been under scrutiny for their human rights violations and have consistently demonstrated their commitment to profit above the health & safety of detainees and staff. In 2019 alone there were numerous outbreaks of mumps, chicken pox and scabies, and medical care at the facility is ranked amongst the worst of all detention centers in the US. Nearly a half dozen employees at Aurora GEO have tested positive for COVID-19, and ICE Spokeswoman Alethea Smock has repeatedly declined to answer journalists’ inquiries about the protocol for testing detainees in ICE custody. The first neighborhood visited by the caravan was that of ICE Field Director for both Colorado and Wyoming, John Fabbricatore. The caravan was, for the most part, warmly received by the many Latinx, Black & Muslim families in Fabbricatore’s neighborhood who held up fists in the air and signs in support of the message to #FreeThemAll. The caravan left after about 30 minutes of circling the neighborhood when a reactionary neighbor attempted to block the road with his own vehicle. There was no visible police presence in this neighborhood besides an unmarked car. The demonstration then drove just a few miles to the Tollgate Crossing neighborhood of the second target, Aurora GEO Warden Johnny Choate, where Abolish ICE Denver, the Denver Communists, and Standing Up for Racial Justice held the first Confront La Migra demonstration in September 2019. The September demonstration was very controversial, faced major police repression, and ended in two arbitrary arrests by the Aurora Police Department (APD). Upon our arrival to GEO Warden Choate’s neighborhood, we observed a strong police presence of 10 – 15 APD motorcycle officers, in addition to unmarked cars and at least 2 white police vans filled with more officers. We were greeted by a boisterous counter protest block party being staged by Choate’s visibly drunk neighbors, who were holding wine and beer cans in the middle of the road that they would later throw at peaceful members of the caravan. After one loop around the neighborhood, the Tollgate Crossing counter protest grew more hostile, aggressive and violent. By the fourth loop, counter protestors had stolen signs and artwork off of vehicles, broken two car mirrors, keyed multiple cars, kicked and broken an automatic window, intimidated and filmed minors, smashed a cell phone, tried to steal a megaphone and assaulted and ripped the shirt of one driver, all while yelling rabidly racist epithets at participants. Several caravan participants have loved ones currently detained at GEO. The neighbors were also markedly more violent toward women and people of color. Many of these aggressive neighbors displayed nationalist MAGA propaganda. One household had a stand out offering refreshments to “first responders and ICE agents.” A local “4th Degree” Colorado Proud Boy Joseph Frashuer was observed in the front of the crowd of Tollgate counter protest: https://cospringsantifa.noblogs.org/post/2020/05/04/4th-degree-proud-boy-joshua-frashuer-co/ Despite the dangerous escalation in violence against peaceful caravaners, APD took no action to separate the two groups, to stop assaults, to stop property damage or the intimidation and filming of minors in vehicles. Abolish ICE Denver condemns the acts of white nationalism and violence that went unchecked by APD yesterday. We also condemn their history of trying to suppress our movement for immigrant liberation. This is the same police department responsible for the brutal murder of unarmed 23-year-old #ElijahMcClain and it is the same police department that let one of their patrol officers off the hook for being drunk and unconscious while on the job. On Sunday, APD proved yet again that they are negligent and incapable of performing the most basic function of their job–protecting people from violence. Instead, APD condones, incites, and perpetrates violence against people of color.Big thanks to our video editing team, fuck the police and #ChingaLaMigra !#DetentionIsDeadly #KopsAndKlan #ACAB #colorado #Aurora #Denver #ConfrontLaMigra #queremosvivosnomuertos
Posted by Abolish ICE Denver on Thursday, May 7, 2020
At this point, to get a full perspective of the event, we suggest watching THIS VIDEO from Abolish ICE Denver that describes the goals of the protest & provides a clear narrative of the afternoon. Content Warning: this footage contains racism, violence, and xenophobic nationalism.
Now that you’ve seen the full scope of the violent opposition to this rally, completely ignored by Aurora police, here is a written report describing our personal experience from inside our car that day:
On the 2nd pass through the counter-protester block party in Johnny Choate’s neighborhood, the crowd got physically rowdy. We were the 3rd car in the caravan (behind the lead car and head police liaison). As we approached the start of the crowd, a woman ripped the sign off the hood of our car who then proceeded to try and tear a sign off our passenger door while screaming in the window. Despite being warned by my partner to leave the car alone, she continued to rip the sign off our door and lean in the window. As she leaned inside, she began to start grabbing at things, my partner had to shove her away to prevent her from further damaging our car and reaching in the window.
While this happened, I had an old bald guy and a middle-aged blonde woman (both seen in the video) start reaching in the drivers’ side window and grabbing at me, requiring me to defend myself. My partner had to leap across me to help push them back and get them to stop grabbing/hitting me. This was definitely the most dangerous point for us because these vile Trumpers could’ve grabbed the steering wheel or caused me to lose control of the car, plowing through any number of their neighbors.
Once we got passed them, the guy with the red beard (seen in the video) kept grabbing/bending my middle finger and fist as I held my hand out the window, yelling that he was gonna break it off. He did this 3-4 times before we’d moved past. He also attempted to open my door to drag me out by pulling on the outside handle, which was luckily locked. While I was dealing with him, my partner was fending off a different old man leaning inside her window while shouting/grabbing and she had to defend herself from him.
The picture at the end of the video of the torn shirt is mine, following the assault on my partner’s car by fans and neighbors of ICE administrator Johnny Choate. Even as veterans of numerous physically-tense situations with fascists and police during demonstrations, the whole thing was extremely unnerving for us; especially in the context of this virus. Seeing their twisted, snarling, un-masked faces reminded us instantly of the pictures of the living dead lock down protesters plastered against the Ohio governor’s windows a couple weeks prior.
Aurora PD did nothing to prevent or respond to these assaults on people demonstrating. They were all also possibly too drunk to protect and serve, but that’s just a guess by these writers. Kops and Klan, hand-in-hand; as per usual.
on sunday @AuroraPD stood by staring as fascists and proud boys attacked activists engaged in a peaceful car rally. rather than addressing the violent actions of counter protestors, @AuroraPD said that they were "controlling the protest traffic" pic.twitter.com/hWDiUF77fW
— abolishicedenver (@abolishice303) May 7, 2020
Much love to Abolish ICE Denver, Denver Communists, Immigrant Justice Alliance, SURJ – Denver, and AFSC and Coloradans for Immigrant Rights for boldly rallying our community to fight these injustices alongside impacted families with loved ones being held by ICE.
Releasing all ICE prisoners is of paramount importance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cases are already reported among detainees and staff of these facilities and now a man has died for a “crime” that does not hold a death sentence. Remember, Anne Frank died of disease while in a concentration camp and not in a gas chamber. None of us are free until we all are free.
Chinga La Migra. Never Again.