Things That Matter

ICE Detainees Are Leading A Hunger Strike In Solidarity With George Floyd And Black Lives Matter

Across the country (and, in fact, the globe) diverse communities are coming together to denounce racism, expose systemic inequality, and demand justice for Black lives which have been cut short.

The call for justice knows no borders – it doesn’t respect walls or fences. You need to look no further than migrant detention centers across the U.S., where some detainees have banded together in solidarity with George Floyd and #BlackLivesMatter by conducting a hunger strike.

Immigrants in ICE’s detention facility have staged a hunger strike in solidarity with George Floyd.

Migrants paid tribute to George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement with a hunger strike at a California migrant detention center.

However, when ICE first announced the hunger strike at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center in Bakersfield, Calif., on Friday, they tried to minimize the act of solidarity. In a statement, ICE alleged that detainees were being coerced — both internally and externally — into a hunger strike, and detainees reportedly said they were told that the purpose of the hunger strike was to protest the repetitive cycle of the menu. 

But according to new reports, the detainees began refusing meals as a show of solidarity for Floyd and the hundreds of other Black Americans killed by police. Even inside the detention center, news of Floyd’s murder – who died while being detained by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25 and whose death sparked protests against police brutality that continue across the nation – has angered detainees.

Many migrants in ICE custody are of African descent and identify with the growing calls for racial justice.

Credit: Oliver de Ros / Getty Images

Although many view the detained migrant populations as a monolith, there are several majority communities that are in detention – and the majority at several centers are of African descent. In fact, Black people from Cameroon, Mexico, Ghana, Haiti, Jamaica, Ethiopia, Brazil, and other countries, are held across ICE detention centers.

Our Prism reports, while undocumented Black immigrants represent about 7.2% of the U.S. population, in immigrant holding facilities (a statistic very similar to American prisons) people of African descent make up the majority of those detained.

Thus, those being held have a high sensitivity and support to the civil unrest that the rest of the country is participating in. In support, they have decided to protest.

Asif Qazi, a Bangladesh immigrant who has been in captivity since February, handed a guard a written statement about their strike.

We, the detained people of dormitories A, B, and C at Mesa Verde ICE Detention Facility, are protesting and on hunger strike in solidarity with the detained people at Otay Mesa Detention Center,” Qazi wrote.

“We begin our protest in memory of our comrades George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Oscar Grant, and Tony McDade. Almost all of us have also suffered through our country’s corrupt and racist criminal justice system before being pushed into the hands of ICE,” the statement read in part.

This recent hunger strike isn’t the first time migrants have stood up for their beliefs while in custody.

Just one week ago, several detainees at a Texas detention facility went on strike to protest the close conditions in a Covid-19 world. many expressed shock and concern over so many vulnerable people being crammed into tiny areas with little access to adequate healthcare.

Norma Herrera, a community organizer for the grassroots coalition Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network, told CNN that one protester had missed 21 meals during a week-long hunger strike. She says he is protesting the cramped living conditions where he fears contracting coronavirus during this ongoing pandemic.

“They feel like there’s no way to protect themselves from the virus. They’re in really crowded dorms within feet of other people. They’re sharing tablets. They’re sharing phones. When they go out to recreation they share the same equipment and they’re sharing with the same people under quarantine,” Herrera said via phone with CNN. “So they feel there’s just no way to keep themselves safe.”

There’s Still More To Do But Black Lives Matter Protests Have Resulted In These Major Police Reforms

Things That Matter

There’s Still More To Do But Black Lives Matter Protests Have Resulted In These Major Police Reforms

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

In the wake of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, the country has struggled with how to best respond to police brutality and racial inequality. Millions of Americans (and millions more around the world) have poured into the streets demanding justice and police accountability.

Although more Black Americans have been killed by police since the death of George Floyd – and long before him – police reform is finally starting to take shape. Several communities across the United States are discussing ways to defund and restructure their police forces and their entire approach to supporting and protecting communities.

Although several victories have already been won, there is still so much work to do to ensure that #BlackLivesMatter.

Minneapolis will defund and dismantle their police force.

The Minneapolis City Council on Friday unanimously approved a proposal to change the city charter to allow the Police Department to be dismantled – this is the first step in removing the police force.

The 12-0 vote is just the first step in a process that still faces significant obstacles to make the November ballot, where the city’s voters would have the final say. Activists have long accused the department of being unable to change a racist and brutal culture, and earlier this month, a majority of the council proclaimed support for dismantling the department.

Draft language of the amendment posted online would replace the department with a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention, “which will have responsibility for public safety services prioritizing a holistic, public health-oriented approach

Cities such as New York and Los Angeles are defunding their police departments.

Credit: Emily Uite/ Getty Images

Aside from completely dismantling the police, several major cities have committed to defunding their police departments. “Defund the police” has become a common protest chant, as protesters want to see the billions of dollars spent on police equipment and enforcement to instead be spent on investing in communities.

Several jurisdictions have implemented total bans on the police use of choke holds – like the one that killed Eric Gardner.

The NYPD has long banned the use of chokeholds, however, their ban is so often ignored by officers that viral videos of NYPD cops using the deadly maneuver are common. But the New York City Council has just adopted an ordinance that officially makes police use of a chokehold a misdemeanor offense.

The legal ban has already been put into action as an NYPD officer was caught on video using one against a suspect. That officer has already been fired and charged.

Although several police departments have long banned the chokehold – for example, the LAPD banned them 40 years ago – cities are now starting to actually attempt to enforce the ban with legal consequences.

For the first time in decades, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a police reform bill.

Democrats and Republicans are deadlocked over how to address racial inequities in policing, despite strong public sentiment for effective reform after Floyd died in Minneapolis as a white policeman knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

In June, the House passed sweeping legislation to address racial inequality in policing but the bill is all but dead on arrival in the Senate, and has a formal veto threat from Trump.

The bill addresses chokeholds, no-knock warrants, police body cameras, use of deadly force, and training to de-escalate confrontations with suspects and to encourage officer intervention against illegal conduct as it occurs.

And one thing is clear – these reforms have the support of most Americans.

Credit: Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Most Americans believe that change must be made to law enforcement across the nation and that reforms are needed to reduce police brutality against Black Americans.

The poll, which was conducto de by Ipsos on behalf of Public Agenda and USA TODAY, found that about three in four people surveyed say racial bias against Black Americans is a serious problem in the U.S.

The poll found several reforms that focused around training and diversity in policing had support from three-quarters or more of respondents: requiring all officers to undergo training on de-escalation tactics to avoid the use of force, requiring all officers to undergo training on how to be less racially biased and recruiting more Black Americans to become police officers.

Even more popular: transparency reforms. Nine in 10 respondents supported having officers wear body cameras, 8 in 10 supported requiring police departments to publicly report all incidents involving the use of force within 72 hours, and nearly as many supported creating a national public database of officers who have used excessive force – and prohibiting other jurisdictions from rehiring them.

The General Manager Of A Pro Softball Team Used Players To Promote Trump’s Anti-Black Lives Matter Message So The Entire Team Walked

Entertainment

The General Manager Of A Pro Softball Team Used Players To Promote Trump’s Anti-Black Lives Matter Message So The Entire Team Walked

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This week, the pro women’s softball league held its first game in Melbourne, Florida. Soon after the game finished, every member of the Texas-based team called the Scrap Yard Fast Pitch, quit. The reason? The team’s general manager Connie May tweeted a picture of the players standing during the national anthem and tagged Donald Trump.

The women players decided that they’d had it.

In a post shared with Donald Trump on Twitter, May indicated that the members of his softball team are opposed to the Black Lives Matter movement.

According to the New York Times, the team received numerous texts and notifications of the post once they’d finished their game and returned to their locker room. The image was posted without their knowledge or consent and clearly used by May to promote a political message. The woman say that their standing for the flag has nothing to do with their political views.

Speaking about the incident, The Undefeated reports that “When May was brought into the locker room following the game, players expected an explanation.” May instead attempted to justify her post and at some point said “All Lives Matter.” Having heard enough one of the team’s members Kiki Stokes walked out. Soon after the rest of the team (which has only two Black members) followed. Kelsey Stewart, one of the Black players, was not at the game as wrote her teammates with a screenshot of the tweet saying “I am not going to ever be a part of this organization whatsoever.”

Fortunately, the softball team backed Stewart and Stokes.

“Moments later, her teammates took off their jerseys and followed her,” The Undefeated reports. “Every player in the locker room was done after that moment. They would no longer play for May or the Scrap Yard organization.”

Speaking to the New York Times, Cat Osterman a member the team said “The more we talked about it, the angrier I got, and I finally just said, ‘I’m done, I’m not going to wear this jersey. We were used as pawns in a political post, and that’s not OK.”

In a show of solidarity, USSSA Pride (who played against Scrap Yard Dawgs in Monday’s game) suspended the rest of their planned games.

The two teams were on each other’s schedules which means USSSA is likely refusing to win by default.

No doubt it’s pretty powerful these women decided to quit their jobs to stand with Black Lives Matter and their Black teammates. Speaking about the incident Natasha Watley, the first Black player to play with USA Softball at the Olympics called the move “powerful.” “Not one of them stood back and said this doesn’t really affect me, I’d rather play,” she said adding “We’re already getting paid pennies and now we’re going to get paid nothing to stand up for this. That’s how much it matters.”