“Next week is the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. We are giving the Governor until then to take action to join our fight. Otherwise—just as we would have wanted people to do during past moments of state-sponsored violence against our communities—we will be coming back here, louder and stronger than ever.”
Members of Never Again Action Rhode Island gathered at the State House on Monday to demand action from Governor Gina Raimondo and the General Assembly to close the Wyatt Detention Facility and end state and local collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The protest comes the day before Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, which is the end of the Jewish High Holidays, a time when Jews are called to reflect on the past year, seek forgiveness for actions that have harmed others, and remember those who have died.
Protesters converged on the Roger Williams National Memorial to perform the traditional Jewish atonement ritual of tashlich, casting bread into the water, which symbolizes the casting away of sins. About 100 people gathered near the Moshassuck River, which runs along Canal Street, to throw pieces of bread into it.
Rabbi Michelle Dardashti:
“As we cast our own sins into the river, we call on Governor Raimondo and all our state’s leaders, to join us,” said Never Again Action organizer Tal Frieden. “Put aside the cowardice of inaction, and do teshuvah, or repentance, by taking a stand. Close the Wyatt, release ICE detainees, ban private prisons, and end all Rhode Island cooperation with ICE.”
After the ceremony, the group marched to the State House, where they lit candles and observed yizkor, the High Holidays memorial service, in memory of the lives lost through United States immigration and foreign policy.
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“We don’t remember the dead just to tell us about the past. We do it to remember the lessons of the past, to help us decide what we must do now,” said protester Jared Goldstein, who spoke about his family’s experience of the Holocaust. “The lesson we Jews have learned is summed up in the words ‘never again.’ Our history imposes upon us a duty to act to try to stop anything like that from ever happening again.”
Never Again Action’s advocacy builds on the longstanding work of local groups like AMOR (Alliance to Mobilize Our Resistance), which has been calling on the governor to shut down the Wyatt and ban all collaboration with ICE across the state. AMOR is also asking Governor Raimondo to keep her promise to allow undocumented community members to receive drivers licenses.
Never Again Action is demanding that Governor Raimondo publicly respond to their demands by Sukkot, an eight-day Jewish holiday that commemorates the ancient migration of the Jewish people as they fled Egyptian slavery. Sukkot begins on the evening of Oct. 13.
“We have spent the last three months inviting, asking, even begging Governor Raimondo to join our fight to shut down the Wyatt, ban private prisons, and end local and state collaboration with ICE,” said Never Again Action organizer Aaron Regunberg. “This isn’t a game. People are being hurt, and they don’t have any more time to wait for our leaders to grow a backbone. Next week is the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. We are giving the Governor until then to take action to join our fight. Otherwise—just as we would have wanted people to do during past moments of state-sponsored violence against our communities—we will be coming back here, louder and stronger than ever.”
[From a press release]
Never Again Action is a mass mobilization of Jews who are organizing to shut down ICE and hold the political establishment accountable for enabling the deportation machine that has separated immigrant families across the United States for decades and for the current crisis at the border.
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