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Cosecha Michigan Shut Down the US/Canada Tunnel, disrupted the debates and elevated the voices of immigrants in Detroit today!

August 1, 2019

(Editor’s note: I participated in the Cosecha Michigan actions today, in the capacity of doing crowd safety.)

With the national news media present for the 2nd night of debates between Democratic Presidential hopefuls, Movimiento Cosecha Michigan made their voices heard and put immigrant justice at the center of attention.

Several hundred people gathered at Hart Plaza around 4pm in downtown Detroit to make it known that despite the so-called debates taking place, the immigrant community had their own vision and their own demands that were not up for debate. The demands that Movimiento Cosecha has put forward for all presidential candidates are as follows:

  1. An End to All Detention & Deportations on Day 1.
  2. Immediate Legalization for all Undocumented Immigrants.
  3. Family Reunification For All – Dignity Not Deportation.

About 4:30pm, organizers with Movimiento Cosecha Michigan invited members of the Anishinaabe community to welcome people to the land that they were standing on, land that is still indigenous and land, land that does not recognize the manufactured border between the US and Canada. This acknowledgement helped to frame the theme and the actions of the day, actions that centered the lives and lived experiences of the immigrant community.

Several Cosecha organizers then spoke to the crowd that had gathered, both in English and in Spanish. Nelly Fuentes-Donnachello, a Cosecha organizer from Kalamazoo, then helped to reframe the message about immigrants and the Presidential debates. Nelly said that the candidates would be debating immigration policy and immigrant rights, but amongst the immigrant community there is no debate about their worth, about their opposition to detention & deportation, and their is no debate about their dignity as human beings. She also said that the candidates can debate these issues, but they do not speak for her, nor the 11 million undocumented immigrants current in the US.

Around 5pm, the crowd was invited to march down to the entrance to the tunnel that connects the US and Canada, where people would be doing civil disobedience in order to dramatize the harm that immigrant families experience on a daily basis.

Twenty one allies sat in the road, thus blocking traffic to the tunnel, traffic that was going to Canada and traffic that was coming into the US.

Members of the Detroit Police Department descended on the protestors quickly, although arrests were not made immediately. Eventually, the US Customs and Border Patrol also arrived on the scene to assist with the protest that also stopped traffic on Jefferson Avenue. You can see in the pictures below how many law enforcement officers were on the scene.

Eventually, those sitting in the road were arrested. During the arrests, there was celebratory applause from the crowd for each person who had been arrested. It was important for allies to be arrested, since it not only sends a strong message to the immigrant community about solidarity, but also because allies will not face the same treatment as immigrants who are picked up by ICE.

One ally who was arrested, Kaitlin Popielarz, wrote a brief statement about why she took action, saying:

“Along with 20 other allies/advocates/co-conspirators, I was arrested today while blocking a port of entry at the Detroit-Windsor tunnel. I put my body on the line in the struggle for immigration justice. Education justice is immigration justice. My civil disobedience today was because of my students, colleagues, comrades, and friends who have taught and shown me what it means to be in the movement for more Beloved shared futures.”

After the arrests, the crowd marched back to Hart Plaza, to prepare for the second part of the action, which was to march to where the debates were taking place. Over 100 people marched down Woodward Avenue, chanting and drawing a great deal attention from people who were sitting outside at various restaurants or just out enjoying the weather. The march had great energy and ended up close to where the debate between Democratic Presidential hopefuls was taking place.

However, there were two members of Movimiento Cosecha who were able to get inside the theater, where the debates were taking place. When Joe Biden was speaking, they both stood up and interrupted Biden, calling attention to the 3 million undocumented immigrants that were deported during the Obama/Biden administration. Immigrants understand this legacy and that the government criminalization of immigrants did not just begin with the Trump administration.

Several Michigan news agencies reported on the interruption by Cosecha members during the debate, but the action was also reported by national news outlets, like CNN.

At the end of the day, Movimiento Cosecha was able to organize a march, block the tunnel between Detroit and Windsor, interrupt the Presidential debates and get their message out to millions of people across the country. Aqui Estamos y no, nos Vamos!





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