State leaders echo calls to ‘abolish ICE’ as thousands march in SF

Assemblymember David Chiu joined protesters who called for the dismantling of the U.S. Immigrations Customs and Enforcement agency during a march and rally that drew thousands of people into the streets and to San Francisco’s City Hall on Saturday.

“I think it’s time we abolish ICE,” said Chiu, after a group of protesters holdings signs that read “Abolish ICE” yelled “Do your job” repeatedly, interrupting a speech he was giving at City Hall alongside Sen. Scott Wiener in opposition to Trump’s immigration policies.

The protesters were among an estimated 15,000 plus people who mobilized in San Francisco Saturday to denounce recent federal immigration policies that have resulted in the repeal of temporary protected status for refugees from certain countries and the separation and detention of immigrant families at the U.S. border.

Leaders across the country have this week expressed support for abolishing the agency, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Rallies and marches were held across the nation in an effort to show coast-to-coast solidarity with immigrants, and in San Francisco, the call to abolish ICE was echoed by the event’s organizers.

“We want to defund ICE,” said Edward Wrights, an organizer with Women’s March San Francisco and Families Belong Together San Francisco. The groups, along with Indivisible SF, hosted Saturday’s action.

“We want to create that as a political reality in this country, by showing our leaders both in elected office and in our communities, that this is something the people want,” said Wrights.

On Tuesday, the groups organized a 12-hour protest at an ICE detention center in Richmond with the intention of pressuring elected official there to “end their contracts with ICE and open the detention center upf or tours to assess the condition of detainees kept in such facilities,” said Wrights.

In San Francisco, the effort was focused on ‘building momentum, on building networks and coalitions,” and on raising funds, he said. The groups recently partnered with the San Francisco-based Horizons Foundation to create the Asylee, Immigrant, and Refugee Emergency Action Fund (AIREA), a benefit fund that will raise money for nine nonprofit organizations that currently work on the ground with immigrants and refugees in areas of legal, social and economic support.

According to early estimates, more than 2,000 people gathered at Dolores Park on Saturday morning to kick of a march triggered road closures along Dolores, Market and Polk streets en route to City Hall.

Among them was Fathi Hussein, who said he was marching with his son and nephew against “walls, bans and for the children separated from their families at the borders” on Saturday.

Hussein, who immigrated to San Francisco as a child refugee from Yemen, said he has family members that he has been working to reunite with in the United States for years.

“Now, when they might finally get a shot, they are being banned,” he said. “When I was a kid I was dreaming to come to the United States and my dream came true, and there is millions of people who have the same dream that I did and I want to make sure that they get that too.”

Organizers later estimated that at least 15,000 people had participated in portions of the march and were gathered the the U.N. Civic Center Plaza as a list of performers and speakers that included community and state leaders.

Singer and activist Joan Baez called for civil disobedience in combating federal aggressive immigration policies and other violations under the Trump Administration.

“There’s a gap between the rich and the poor, between reality and false news, between empathy and cruelty,” she said, quoting NAACP leader Rev. William Barber. “Are we willing to stand in that gap? What does it mean and what will that take? “

Ani Rivera, director of San Francisco’s Galería de la Raza, encouraged protesters to also take back the “electoral process.”

“It’s important that we show up and demand folks that are in power to represent us,” she said. “We are in a fascist system. We are living in it. And we must stand up and fight back. We have to hold these people accountable and they should not be letting these things happen on our watch.”

lwaxmann@sfexaminer.com

Laura Waxmann
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Laura Waxmann

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