Five activists demanding an end to inhumane detention practices for LGBT immigrants were arrested in Santa Ana., Calif., Thursday morning, during the culmination of a tense demonstration that shut down a local intersection for more than an hour.
The demonstration was organized by Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, the #Not1More Campaign, and grassroots LGBT group GetEQUAL. Calling for an end to Immigration and Customs Enforcement's detention practices that frequently see vulnerable immigrants, including transgender people, women, and children placed in high-risk situations and then deported to hostile home countries, the activists took to to the street outside an ICE detention center in the Southern California city where transgender women are reportedly being held.
"Transgender undocumented women face real sexual, physical, and psychological abuse once they are put in detention centers," said Jennicet Gutierrez, a transgender Latina and member of Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, in a statement announcing Thursday's rally. "They need to be released immediately."
Five activists wrapped their bodies in heavy metal chains, as others carried signs calling for "Trans Queer Liberation," "Not 1 More LBTQ Deportation," and "End ALL Detention."
Organizers of the rally said they wanted to hold President Barack Obama's administration responsible for the unprecedented number of immigrants deported since 2008, and pointed to the president's former secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who recently announced she was making treatment of transgender women and other vulnerable immigrants a priority in her own presidential campaign.
"We should not have to wait for Congress to pass immigration reform or Clinton to end trans detention," wrote Not1More in a blog post earlier this month. "Obama's administration can do it now."
That message echoed through the streets of Santa Ana Thursday, as activists marched, chanted, and ultimately sat in the street, refusing to move until they were arrested.
Scroll down for photos and videos from today's demonstration, including interviews with several trans women who were formerly detained by ICE.
"My existence is resistance," reads a protester's shirt as she carries the trans pride flag in Santa Ana.
Attending today's rally was Nicoll Hernández-Polanco, a transgender woman who says she endured months of abuse and sexual assault at the hands of fellow detainees and ICE staff while she awaited a hearing in her asylum case. In a statement to her attorneys, Hernández-Polanco described how male ICE guards patted her down six to eight times every day, often allegedly groping her breasts and buttocks, making offensive sexual comments and gestures, and sometimes pulling her hair. She also reported that ICE staff routinely verbally abused her because of her gender identity, insulting her with slurs like “fucking gay,” “bitch,” and “the woman with balls” in front of other detainees.
Watch our exclusive interview with Hernández-Polanco at Thursday's Not1More Rally in Santa Ana below; and be sure to scroll down for more video interviews with demonstrators.
Below, Jorge Gutiérrez, organizer with Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, explains what Thursday's rally and the Not1More campaign are about:
Familia: TQLM's Mariella Saba negotiates with the officer in charge at today's rally, then breaks down the power struggle between the state and transgender people.
Santa Ana Police Sgt. Phil Craft says his officers "acted professionally" and that he didn't see "overly aggressive" policing at the rally.