Occupy ICE Protesters Camp Outside Philadelphia Office, Despite Police Repression

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The growing Occupy ICE movement demands the abolition of the abusive War on Terror-era agency. In Philadelphia, protesters are camping outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office. Activists Tina Ngo and Jameson Rush stand in solidarity with immigrants, and speak about the violent repression by police.

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Story Transcript

BEN NORTON: It’s The Real News. I’m Ben Norton.

Since Monday July 2, protesters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania have been protesting outside the office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, that’s ICE, protesting ICE and its abuse of immigrants, and calling for the abolition of ICE. ICE is a war on terror institution that was created by the Bush administration after 9/11. These protests have been going on nationally, but in Philadelphia activists have been having an encampment outside of the ICE headquarters. And today I’m joined by two activists who are involved in these protests at the occupation in Philadelphia. One is Tina Ngo, who is an undergraduate student studying political science. She organizes with Philadelphia’s chapter of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. Thanks for joining us, Tina.

TINA NGO: Hi, Ben. Thank you so much for having me.

BEN NORTON: And the other activists we’re joined by is Jameson Rush. Jamison is an alumnus of the University of California Santa Cruz, and a member of Philadelphia Democratic Socialist of America. Thanks for joining us.

JAMESON RUSH: Thanks for having us.

BEN NORTON: So Tina, can you talk about why you’re out protesting today?

TINA NGO: Yeah. I am an organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation. I think it is especially important for us right now to be mobilizing our people against ICE, that is turning away families from each other and also keeping undocumented immigrants from working in this country.

BEN NORTON: Can you talk about some of the groups that are involved? You mentioned you’re with PSL, and then there are other groups who also have been organizing this demonstration that’s been going on for two days, now.

TINA NGO: There’s 10 official groups that have endorsed this occupation. PSL, Philly Socialists, the Philly chapter for DSA, Socialist Alternative, Reclaim Philadelphia, Power International, Marxist Tendency, the Green Party of Philadelphia, and Montgomery County Socialists. All groups of various leftist orientations.

BEN NORTON: Yeah, and why are you all out calling for the abolition of ICE? Can you talk about some of the things that ICE has been doing?

TINA NGO: I think it’s really important for us to come together as one coalition to mobilize against ICE as a federal force that’s tearing families apart. And not of just one ethnic background, but multiple ethnic backgrounds. Keeping people from working, keeping people from pursuing happiness, liberty, freedom. And it’s really important that we stand together and express solidarity towards undocumented immigrants, to let them know that we are here with them, and we support them, and we will not leave them, and we will abolish ICE.

BEN NORTON: So Jameson, can you talk about the police response you’ve seen? The protest has only been going on for two days, but we’ve seen a very brutal police response.

JAMESON RUSH: It’s been, it’s been brutal. They arrested myself, along with maybe 20 other people today. They moved in as a, they’re like, really [inaudible]. They’re like, local cops. DHS Police have been circling, though. The occupation as it is now, it’s a little smaller than it started. When we first got here we surrounded the whole building, and then as sort of energy dwindled and numbers started to fall, sort of got pushed back. So they’ve opened up a couple of entrances. I was arrested when they were trying to get access to the garage door that they used to transport detainees in and out of the facility.

And so we decided to make our stand there. We just got citations. We were held in a hot paddywagon for a couple hours. And one comrade got sent to the hospital, and we’re still waiting on word about their condition.

BEN NORTON: And then can you talk about why you are protesting, why you were willing to get arrested for this?

JAMESON RUSH: I’m here because ICE is a fascist organization, hasn’t been around that long. I will support the abolition of borders, the abolition of walls, and all things that divide us. Philadelphia is actually in sort of a specific situation. The ICE office in Philly is the most aggressive ICE office in the country. They’ve got the highest number of arrests of undocumented immigrants without criminal convictions. So this is the office that, where that’s run out of.

BEN NORTON: So Tina, can you talk about the response you’ve had so far at this occupation, and how you think things will continue going forward?

TINA NGO: Yeah. When we first organized this occupation it was kept a secret. We only expected there to be at most 10 people to actually stay overnight. But the support was overwhelming. There were, last night was our first day of occupation, and there were at least 30 people out here that were willing to risk arrest, that were willing to stay overnight and to face the cops. And that was, you know, just miraculous and just a really great sight to, to witness.

BEN NORTON: Can you talk about how it feels to be part of a national movement? This is not happening just in Philly.

TINA NGO: I do think that it is important that this is happening in Philly in the first place, because Philly has one of the most aggressive ICE offices in the country. We live very close to the Berks Detention Center, which is the only center in the country that keeps families indefinitely. We’re out here to show solidarity not only just for undocumented immigrants, but also movements that are spawning across the nation. Whether that’s Portland, whether it’s, whether that’s L.A., we are here to show solidarity. And we are not going to go anywhere until ICE is abolished.

BEN NORTON: Jameson, you’re a member of Democratic Socialist of America. And recently here in New York, a member of Democratic Socialists of America, DSA, actually won the primary and will likely be a future congresswoman. I’m talking about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. And part of her platform was calling for the abolition of ICE. So can you talk about how this is a growing movement, not just in Philadelphia but around the country, calling for the abolition of this war on terror or institution that was created by the Bush administration? And now even some some prominent politicians are, likewise, calling for its abolition.

JAMESON RUSH: Yeah. I mean, it’s definitely a growing movement. This happened, like, something like 12 cities across the country yesterday. Various occupations of ICE offices. There were massive mobilizations on Saturday. I’m excited, obviously, about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Hopefully it sort of puts us on the road to socialism. But I think this action itself was organized by sort of a broad coalition of left groups in the city. And I think that’s what I’m personally most excited about, the opportunity for organizing between groups. The left doesn’t have, like, a great history of cooperation. And I think we’ve seen a great success of that tactic here.

BEN NORTON: So Tina, as a socialist, what motivates you in particular to fight for the rights of undocumented immigrants, and to fight against the demonization of undocumented immigrants?

TINA NGO: So we are anti-capitalist and we are anti-imperialist. We don’t believe that America should be invading into other countries, tearing them, tearing their families apart, wreaking havoc on their own land to only enforce this imaginary border between the United States and Mexico, and really creating this narrative that undocumented immigrants are stealing jobs, and they’re causing crimes, which is just not true in the first place. Because these claims are really just based on racism, xenophobia. Whether that’s under Donald Trump’s administration, whether that’s under Obama’s administration, whether that’s under a Bush administration. These narratives are really dangerous to everyone worldwide.

BEN NORTON: You mentioned that this is a problem that did not begin on January 20, 2017 when Trump came into office. He certainly exacerbated the problem and allowed ICE to carry out many different crimes and abuses. We also saw similar actions under the administrations of Obama and Bush. Can you speak about the bipartisan nature of this problem?

TINA NGO: The problem with the American political system is that it actually is two parties-. It’s actually one party dressed as two different things. So as socialists, we want to be able to recognize that this is just the policy of the one ruling class, that really is the capitalist class. ICE enforces the rule of the capitalist class. This issue has been happening since under the Bush administration. It happened under Obama’s administration. And it’s happening right now under Donald Trump’s administration.

It’s really important for people to not be disillusioned by the Democratic Party and their narrative, and only take actions when someone is abrasive and as offensive as Donald Trump comes out, because these policies are not just Donald Trump, but it is in general of the United States, regardless of who, of which president is carrying it out.

BEN NORTON: Well, we’ll have to end our conversation there. We were joined by Tina Ngo, who’s an undergraduate student studying political science. She organizes with the Philadelphia chapter of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. Thanks for joining us, Tina.

TINA NGO: Yeah, thank you.

BEN NORTON: And the other activist we’re joined by is Jameson Rush. Jameson is a member of Philadelphia Democratic Socialists of America. Thanks again.

JAMESON RUSH: Thank you.

BEN NORTON: For The Real News, I’m Ben Norton.