On Monday afternoon multiple blockades were erected to obstruct the entrances of the Bristol County Jail and House of Correction. The facility also hosts a United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility. At one entrance two 24 foot tripods were set up, that were then scaled and occupied by two demonstrators.
Banners were displayed, reading: “End Incarceration & Deportation STOP Family Separation AHORA!” and “ABOLISH I.C.E. NOW!”
After 20 minutes the police pulled down both tripod blockades, dropping the occupiers about 15 feet to the ground. I showed up minutes after the tripods were toppled.
At the other entrance two people locked their bodies to a concrete blockade, shutting off all vehicle access to the facility.
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The action was organized by The FANG Collective, a community organizing and direct action group based out of Rhode Island.
“As an indigenous person of color it’s my responsibility to continue to fight for the safety of my community members,” said Sherrie, a FANG co-founder who was one of the protestors in a tripod. “This is just one prison in a long line of many that shouldn’t exist.”
In recent months, the Bristol County Jail and House of Correction has been a hotbed of controversy, sparking multiple protests. In 2006-2016 Bristol County accounted for a quarter of jail suicides in Massachusetts despite only making up 13 percent of the statewide jail population.
In response to deplorable conditions, including inedible food, nearly nonexistent medical care, and abuse from facility employees, ICE detainees launched a hunger strike on July 18th. By the next week the general population at the prison was also staging a hunger strike in solidarity with the ICE detainees.
“The State has always existed and enforced itself through violence,” said Eddie Zhou. “Resisting ICE is also resisting all the ways the State enacts violence on people it sees as less valuable.”
In February 2017 the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) signed a 287(g) agreement with ICE which gave BCSO personnel the authority to exercise immigration-related functions including interrogation and issuing of arrest warrants for those who an officer believes to be an “alien.”
“Families are being separated not just by ICE detainment centers, but by prisons too. It’s cruel and dehumanizing,” said a FANG member. Anne, another protestor in a tripod, added, “This will keep happening unless we continue to put pressure on these institutions.”
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