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Detention Officers In Louisiana Allegedly Attacked Detainees Holding A Hunger Strike Over Conditions

The things that take place behind the doors of detention centers are often a mystery.  Undocumented immigrants disclose some things while immigration officials say another. The media is rarely given a chance to see what the facilities are like, and when they do, they don’t always get the whole picture. That is why advocates of these people are sometimes the only ones that not only get to visit the people inside, but they can also share with the public what is going on. Such is the case with an organization called Freedom for Immigrants who disclosed some incredibly awful events that took place at a detention center. 

This weekend, more than 100 immigrants were attacked inside their detention center while they were protesting with a hunger strike.

 Courtesy of Freedom for Immigrants

Freedom for Immigrants, a non-profit based in California, reports that immigrants detained at the ICE Processing Center in Pine Prairie, Louisiana, were attacked with excessive force by guards because they would not disperse during a hunger strike protest. The detention center is located in a remote area in Louisiana less than two hours west of Baton Rouge.

Freedom for Immigrants said that 115 immigrants had been on a hunger strike for five days, protesting their prolonged detainment.

Credit: @UUSC / Twitter

That is when guards pepper-sprayed them, shot at them with rubber bullets, tear-gassed, beaten, and placed in solitary confinement. They also report that the inmates were blocked from contacting their families or attorneys.

“When an individual in detention goes on hunger strike, it means the person is willing to put their body on the line just to be heard,” Sofia Casini, Southern Regional Coordinator with Freedom for Immigrants, said in a press release. “Multiple hunger strikes happening simultaneously are no coincidence: they are indicative of the desperation and suffering that immigrants are facing inside these human cages.

An ICE spokesperson confirms that the inmates were pepper-sprayed.

Credit: @EMc_42 / Twitter

Bryan Cox, an ICE spokesman, told BuzzFeed that the incident took place saying, a “group of ICE detainees refused to depart the outdoor recreation area at the Pine Prairie facility Friday evening.” He added, “After repeated attempts by facility staff and ICE personnel to disperse the group and restore orderly operation of the facility, brief, calculated use of pepper spray was employed Saturday morning.”

However, he said that no one was injured, which contradicts the images that were released from the incident.

Courtesy of Freedom for Immigrants

Freedom for Immigrants notes that several other hunger strikes are taking place at various detention centers around the country, including at another facility in Louisana. They report that at least 1,396 people have taken part in a hunger strike and 18 detention facilities since May 2015.

The assault against immigrants got so bad that an ambulance had to be called.

Courtesy of Freedom for Immigrants

Mother Jones reports that they can confirm the assault took place as several detainees sent lawyer Lara Nochomovitz text messages. Here’s what some of those messages said: 

“There are lots of cops who came from another prison, they beat up the Cubans, they pepper spray them and handcuff them.”

Another said, “There’s even an ambulance here. Help us please this is ugly!” 

Lt. Bill Davis of the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office told that publication that the incident was only a small disturbance and said the group consisted of only 30 people. He also added that the person that was taken in an ambulance was suffering from anxiety issues. 

People who are imprisoned use hunger strikes to bring attention to the cruelty taking place inside.

Credit: @Haleaziz / Twitter

In some cases, detainees go long periods of stretches in a hunger strike protest, but officials have been known to force-feed them by using tubes. 

They do this to get the attention of officials and of the media to inform them about the injustices that are going on inside. Sometimes it is their only form of communication since they are unable to speak to family. 

Yanet Diaz is the aunt of Lisvani Perez Serrano who was transferred from Mississippi to Louisiana. She told Freedom for Immigrants that he passed his asylum interview and was granted parole. They informed him that he would be released in 15 days, but that never happened. 

“They haven’t informed him about his case, and he is constantly being threatened. He and the other detained men had no other option but to go on hunger strike.”

The National Immigration Law Center said that it is not surprising that ICE hasn’t officially reported about what took place at the ICE Processing Center in Pine Prairiesince they lack transparency and oversight. They said they are demanding answers and accountability.

READ: Immigration Detainees Joined Prisoners Nationwide To Strike Against Living Conditions And Very Low Wages In Prisons

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