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Seattle students rally in support of hunger strikers at the Northwest Detention Center

By staff

Protest at at the Northwest Detention Center.

Tacoma, WA – A crowd of 35 people gathered at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma on Saturday, March 4, to call for the closure of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement-sanctioned prison for undocumented people. The Northwest Detention Center is owned and operated by the private corporation GEO Group.

The Northwest Detention Center is notorious for its mistreatment of inmates, lack of sanitation, medical neglect and overuse of solitary confinement. The prisoners there have gone on multiple hunger strikes over the past year to protest these conditions, most recently in February when over 85 demanded an end to the inhumane treatment, regular mealtimes with real and healthy food, genuine COVID-19 preventative measures, pay for their work, and other necessities.

Two student groups from the University of Washington – El Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlan, or MEChA, and the Progressive Student Union – organized a rally in continued support of the prisoners held within and in opposition to the horrific conditions they are facing.

“Unidos en la lucha, ¡Somos imparables!” [United in the fight, we are unstoppable!] said Diana Paola Vergara from MEChA. The crowd chanted “Shut it down!” and “No one is illegal.” Inside the Northwest Detention Center, prisoners stood out in the yard to listen to the chants.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials promised to meet the demands of the strikers back in February, but those inside say that nothing has been done. Instead, prisoners fear retaliation for protesting for decent and humane treatment. On March 1, one detainee was savagely beaten guards after asking for a sandwich. A security officer knelt on the beaten man’s neck, pinning him in a pool of his own blood with a chokehold that is banned in Washington state.

“GEO Group has blood on their hands. We need an immediate end to the abuses of the undocumented people held unjustly at the Northwest Detention Center,” said Mantak Singh from the Progressive Student Union. He added “While students have a responsibility to organize on their campuses, we also have a responsibility to act in solidarity with other struggles. We are here today because the people inside have decided to organize themselves to take militant action through a hunger strike and we have to be there to support them.”

Many of the undocumented people within the Northwest Detention Center are held far past the resolution of the court cases that approve their deportations. ICE and the GEO Group benefit financially from having people in detention and go to great lengths to keep their business booming.

#TacomaWA #immigrantRights