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Activist sentenced to ten days in jail for protesting ICE outside Bristol County Jail



“We can only hope to change the world by staring injustice in the face and forcing ourselves out of our comfort zones,” said activist Holly Stein. “As walls are built and people are caged it is our obligation to stand in solidarity with the most active impacted people to that they know we see them and that their voices are heard.”

About thirty people were outside the New Bedford District Courthouse Monday morning in support of Holly Stein, one of the four people arrested last August for blocking the entrance of the Bristol County Jail and House of Corrections in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

For over a year year The FANG Collective has been organizing to end the 287(g) agreement between United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office. This agreement allows for Sheriffs to be able to carry out the duties of ICE officers and detain people on immigration charges.

Holly Stein, (right) August, 2018

Last August four people with The FANG Collective were arrested after peacefully blocking the entrances to the prison. The action was carried out in solidarity with ICE detainees who were on hunger strike inside the prison to protest the dire conditions at the facility. The Bristol County Sheriffs reacted to the protest with violence, “resulting in two demonstrators receiving traumatic brain injuries,” said FANG in a statement.

See: Entrances to Bristol County Jail blocked by demonstrators over ICE connection

Holly Stein walking into the New Bedford District Courthouse Monday morning

According to the FANG Collective, this case marks one of the first times that a person has been sentenced to jail time for an ICE related protest. This comes at a time when free speech and protest are being targeted under the Trump administration.

“I’m angry and upset at the treatment towards the people who have been detained and held at Bristol County,” said Stein, in a brief interview outside the courthouse, ahead of her sentencing. “To all the inmates and people who are being held, I’m standing in solidarity with them. I am saddened by the fact that the County can’t see that this is a humanitarian issue that needs to be addressed and instead are choosing to sentence me. The larger issue at hand is the fact that people are being detained and held unfairly. This is not this is not where I want to live. I don’t want to live in a place that treats people in this way. We need to be working towards justice, real justice.”

As for the sentence she was to receive, ten days in jail, Stein said, “This is unacceptable. This is a horrible precedent: If we speak out against conditions and torture to people inside, people are going to be sent to jail…

“I’m not looking forward to going there and I just hope that this brings more attention to Bristol County and to the correction facility,” continued Stein. “Things need to change. The sheriff is under investigation and that investigation needs to continue, instead of sending us to jail. They really need to be investigating the jail and investigating the detention centers and break the contracts with ICE that allow people to get held based on nothing.

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“I feel very privileged in this position, even though I’m about to go into jail,” said Stein. “I just think more people should stand up about the injustices that are happening.”

Asked if she regrets her actions that lead to this, Stein answered, “Absolutely not.”

The fate of the other three protesters is to be determined but they are “expecting a similar harsh outcome and sentence,” said Arely Diaz, a spokesperson for The FANG Collective.

“We’re here to support [Holly] and also to continue putting the pressure on the County and also to demonstrate to the judges and and the officials that we are going to be here today, that there is support for the person going in, and that we’re continuing the resistance to the agreements with ICE.”

The other three people arrested that day go on trial in July.

Holly Stein, with supporters

“I believe that if more people put their bodies where their hearts are we could show these powerful state institutions that they can not cage, torture, and separate people without consequences,” said Stein. “We will not be silent, far too much is at stake.”

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About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.

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