We continue to support the efforts of organizers throughout Texas and the country who are working to free children and families from the Hutto prison complex. Here is an update on one of their recent actions:
It wasn’t the massive Seattle anti-WTO protest or the Manhattan Stop-the-March, but still, Saturday’s demonstration at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas, earned four out of five fighting stars from the Current‘s activism critics.
Organized by a cluster of human-rights organizations (including Amnesty International and LULAC) and dubbed “Protest-a-palooza” (by las mijas de la Ginga), the pro-immigrant-rights rally drew a crowd of nearly 500 at the privately contracted detention center where U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement houses several hundred “Other-Than-Mexican” immigrant families, including children [“Undocumented Immigrants, Unlicensed Prison,” May 23-27]. The event was the tenth vigil-protest since the Corrections Corporation of America opened the facility in May 2006, and, by all accounts, the largest and most successful Hutto protest to date.
What makes a four-star protest? We considered several criteria in our judgment; here’s what you missed:
You can’t expect a million men to march to a backwater town like Taylor, especially when Mapquest’s directions run your car into the side of the half-dozen freight trains blocking the detention center from public view. (It’s rumored that’s the reason San Antonio’s buses carrying LULAC president Rosa Rosales & Co. were more than an hour late.) So, 500’s a solid number, especially considering the groups represented: LULAC, Amnesty International, Code Pink, Houston Sin Fronteras, Democrats for Life, the César E. Chávez March for Justice, Texans United for Families, Children and Families for Humane Treatment Alliance, and the Greater Faith Institutional Church, among others (including a band of anti-death-penalty activists collecting signatures to save the life of Bexar County death-row inmate Kenneth Foster, though that’s a whole other can of injustice).
Protest-a-palooza was a two-stage affair, with live music from several bands, including Mike Dubose and the Dissidents, veterans of Cindy Sheehan’s Camp Casey, and speeches from LULAC Prez Rosales and Treasurer Jaime Martinez; activist-extraordinaire Jay J. Johnson-Castro; as well as former detainess and the children of a Somali woman still held in the facility. The big name, of course, was Elizabeth Kucinich, the tall, red-headed and 29-year-old British wife of Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich and our nominee for most-gorgeous-potential-first-lady (since DK’s running for president, again).
“When we see a wave of extremism going through our migration and immigration and asylum policies, which locks people up and sends them back without any kind of legal recourse, and treats them inhumanely, something has to change,” Mrs. Kucinich said during her opening remarks at the rally. “You are at the beginning of a human-rights movement, which is going to really take over not only in America, but is going to wash up on many shores across the rest of the world.”
Services & Amenities
In addition to buses from San Antonio and Dallas-Fort Worth, the organizers of the event arranged for parking with a local Catholic church who owns a lot next door to Hutto (although the church wouldn’t share their outdoor pavillion). However, no port-o-johns! That’s forgiveable considering the enormous amount of swag, including T-shirts and hats courtesy of Cesar’s Creations (the same SA custom-merch shop that supplies the Alamo City Rollergirls), and a four-CD “La Frontera Show” set from the Amnesty International Group 23 Radio Collective.
We anticipated a riot, what with several hundred angry souls crammed into a thin strip of public space and spilling over into overlapping public-safety jurisdictions (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Transportation, Williamson County Sheriff, Taylor Police). Plus, the saints had already been martyred: Earlier this month, two Houson Sin Fronteras activists were arrested while demonstrating outside the CCA building in Houston where detainees are processed before being transported to Hutto.
Although protesters crossed the property line early on, using small children with sidewalk chalk to creep up the driveway to the CCA truck blocking the entrance, the demonstration proceeded peacefully thanks to crowd control from SA’s Brown Berets (they’re like the Black Panthers, but less militant and more Latino). The Taylor police dispatched three officers to the scene (as opposed to the two they sent for the June 9 protest), while CCA sent two unarmed employees to monitor the situation. They did little more than look dismayed and smoke cigarettes.