Vigil Outside Wyatt Detention Facility Honors Lives Lost in Detention and Incarceration
Two dozen people gathered outside the Wyatt Detention Facility to honor the lives lost in detention and incarceration, including the 38 individuals who died in a fire at an immigration detention center in Ciudad Juarez. Organized by AMOR, the vigil called for an end to the violence of border enforcement and the system dividing humanity.
Two dozen people gathered outside the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls on Saturday to honor “the deaths of all those lost in detention, souls lost in incarceration.” Specifically, said organizer Nikteha Salazar, “We are here today to honor the 38 people lost in a fire at an immigration detention center in Ciudad Juarez. We are here to honor Carol Pona. We are here to honor Lashawn Thompson. We are here to honor Jason Hui Lui Ng.”
The vigil was organized by AMOR (Alliance to Mobilize Our Resistance), a group that has, for years, organized against the Wyatt, Rhode Island’s only for-profit, privately owned prison.
“One month ago on March 28th, 38 people lost their lives to the violence of border enforcement. These 38 people, along with 30 others who suffered injuries but made it out alive, were left locked in cells during a fire in an immigration detention facility in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico,” said Salazar, “They lost their lives at the hands of prison guards who held the keys to safety but did not open the cell doors. But they also lost their lives at the hands of every politician and government official who upholds the enforcement of national borders – from the United States, to Mexico, to every country in the world. They lost their lives to the system that divides humanity along imaginary lines, granting certain rights to those born on one side and denying rights to those born on the other side.”
“At the same time,” continued Salazar, “the United States government has created a system in which people around the world, from Central and South America, to Africa, to the Middle East, to Asia, have had to flee their native country, flee their homes due to conditions created by United States foreign policy – conditions created when the United States chooses to back and provide military and financial resources to perpetrators of physical and economic violence; conditions created when the United States enacts trade policies that put profits over people; conditions created when the United States backs coups by forces with the intention of indigenous genocide and land grabbing, leaving indigenous families with nothing.
Those at the vigil chanted and made contact to some of those incarcerated behind the wall of the Wyatt as correctional officers and Central Falls Police officers watched from a distance. The event was peaceful and without incident.
Salazar’s statement continues:
“Hundreds of thousands of people from central and South America, and around the world, have been disappeared, tortured, and killed by right-wing military regimes backed under the guise of the United States’s “crusade against communism”. We know what this crusade against communism really is- a ploy by the United States for total global economic and political control. There are too many countries that have experienced these conditions of violence and poverty as a result of United States intervention, but I will name a few: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Mexico, the Phillipines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Pakistan, Chad, Ethiopia, The Republic of Congo, Uganda, Somalia, Yemen.
“The United States creates the conditions by which people need refuge, by which asylum is essential to survival, then turns those same people away.. It is heartless, it is evil, and it must be stopped.
“Ciudad Juarez is a city on the border of the United States – a mere bridge separates it from El Paso, where I have many family members. I have walked across that bridge many times. Many people live and work on both sides of it, crossing it every day. In graffiti, someone had once written on the Juarez wall preventing anyone from passing into the United States without accessing the bridge “de este lado, hay todavia suenos”… from this side there are still dreams. I think about the dreams of those trying to cross from Juarez. I think about the bridge separating them. I think about how many people have died trying to cross that bridge. A mere bridge.
“We are here today at the Wyatt Detention Facility to pay respects to the 38 souls lost in the struggle for freedom, and to acknowledge that we in Rhode Island are also affected by this system of state-sanctioned violence – most directly, our community members who are locked inside these prison walls. We are here to call upon the bravery of those detainees in Ciudad Juarez who lit mattresses on fire in their cells in protest and in struggle – in an appeal to the humanity of the prison guards, that they might see the fires and know that the value of a human life goes beyond the laws that instruct us to cage each other. Though their appeal was ignored by those guards who left them locked in burning cells, let us now today hear it for what it was. Let us hear the message that this struggle against detention, this struggle for the abolition of prisons and the abolition of borders, is a matter of life or death. Let us hear their message, hear their appeal, see their bravery, and let it inspire our movement and our struggle, that we might be brave like them, and continue the fight to free everyone who is locked inside a cage.
“This deadly fire happened far away in Mexico, but United States and specifically Rhode Island prisons have recent blood on their hands! Just a week and half ago, news came out about the death of Lashawn Thompson, a 35 year old human person who was eaten alive by insects in a Georgia jail cell. On March 28th, the same day as the fire in Ciudad Juarez, Carol Pona died of stomach cancer in Rhode Island Department of Corrections custody while being held without bail at the ACI, for a violation that should have been heard before a judge in 10 days. The ACI refused to hear her cries for medical help, and now she is gone. And as many of you know, in 2008, Hiu Lui Ng was murdered by staff right here at the Wyatt who ignored his excruciating pain and refused to grant him access to medical treatment. For Lashawn Thompson, for Carol Pona, for Hui Lui Ng, and for every person who has ever died a prisoner of the state –
“NO MORE DEATHS, NO MORE CAGES, SHUT DOWN ICE, SHUT DOWN WYATT – FREE THEM ALL!“
Salazar then sang a Nahuatl medicine song, a language indigenous to Mexico, to invite in the spirits of those lost, and invite them tiahue- forward, invite them out of their cages, out of this earthly prison, invite them to freedom.