On Friday afternoon local activists blockaded all vehicle entrances to the the Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls, Rhode Island. The prison has faced mounting scrutiny over their contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the conditions at the facility.
Three demonstrators, Sara, Lee and June locked themselves to concrete blockades to obstruct two of the roads leading to the Wyatt and a third road was blocked with cars that were locked together with chains. Banners at the action read “Invesco: Cancel the ICE Contract” and “Shut Down Wyatt.
Two protesters, Sara and Lee, blocked High Street under the train bridge: They were there for about two hours before being extracted by members of the Central Falls Fire Department.
The action was organized by the Alliance to Mobilize Our Resistance (AMOR) and The FANG Collective, two Rhode Island based advocacy groups who have been calling for the closure of the Wyatt.
“The existence of the Wyatt is inhumane and violent. People detained by ICE have written to us, gone on hunger strike during COVID, and now are getting sick at a rapid rate,” said Lee, who was arrested during the action. “Shutting down the Wyatt, and all prisons and detention centers, is the only humane and just solution.”
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The Wyatt, which describes itself as the first publicly owned and privately operated prison in the United States, holds both those detained by the United States Marshalls as well as ICE. The Wyatt has a long history of human rights violations and violent practices against the people they imprison.
In April, 60 people detained by ICE at the Wyatt launched a hunger strike to demand safer conditions and their release amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Wyatt staff responded by retaliating against the strikers, cutting off phone access and placing people in isolation. On April 21st, the first case of COVID-19 in the Wyatt was reported. As of October 28th, 18% of the population held hostage at the Wyatt Detention Center had COVID-19.
“Today I am thinking of Hiu Liu Ng, who was killed by ICE at the Wyatt. I am thinking of Roxsana Hernandez and Johana Medina Leon, two trans women killed by ICE in the last two years,” said June, who took part in the action and was arrested. “I am thinking of everyone inside of the facility right now, separated from those who care about them. This detention center, this institution, and the prison industrial complex cannot continue.”
June was obstructing Blackstone St, under the train bridge there. Here’s video of their arrest.
In 2008 Hiu Lui “Jason” Ng, a migrant from Hong Kong died while detained at the Wyatt due to medical neglect. This caused ICE to end its contract with the Wyatt that same year. In early 2019, facing pressure from investors, the Wyatt signed a new contract with ICE. The board that governs the Wyatt attempted to then cancel the contract, only to have the investors of the facility, led by Atlanta-based Invesco, successfully sue to maintain the contract.
[From a press release]
The folks who were arrested at today’s action have been released from jail! Thank you everyone who supported by…Posted by The FANG Collective on Friday, November 6, 2020
We would like to confirm that FANG’s Community Bail Fund can be accessed in Rhode Island by anyone unable to post bail,…Posted by The FANG Collective on Tuesday, June 2, 2020