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Tacoma community holds vigil at Northwest Detention Center for 12th consecutive day

By staff

Vigil outside Northwestern Detention Center. | Fight Back! News/staff

Tacoma, WA – On March 20, approximately 50 people gathered in front of the Northwest Detention Center as part of the 24/7 vigil currently being led by La Resistencia and Tsuru for Solidarity.

The 24/7 vigil was organized in response to the horrific conditions within the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC), specifically, the alleged suicide of Charles Leo Daniel, a 61-year-old man who spent two years in solitary confinement. After the death of Daniel, at least five other detainees attempted suicide in the following days. In response to this tragedy, over 300 detainees have gone on hunger strike with several community members joining them in solidarity.

Maru Mora-Villalpando, the founder of La Resistencia who is on hunger strike, said, “If I end up in the hospital, it’s on them, it’s their lack of response. We’re asking so little. Say something, say something about Mr. Daniel, why won’t you?”

For this particular day, the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO) endorsed the vigil and led the demonstrators in protest against the NWDC.

Clio Jensen, a rank-and-file member of Unite Here Local 8, spoke about the recent campaign at her workplace, where workers won a strong contract that included translation rights and banned their employer from working with ICE. Jensen stated, “When we fight for and win protections for immigrant workers at our workplaces, we are making the entire labor movement stronger, and we’re making all of our movements stronger!”

In addition to chants of “Shut it down!” and “Fuck ICE! Fuck GEO!” the demonstrators sang along to the iconic labor song Which Side Are You On? changing the chorus lyrics to “Free them all tonight” and “Chinga la migra”.

Mantak Singh, a member of the FRSO, said, “ For myself, in the Punjabi community, many of us don’t speak English. If we do, we’d rather speak Punjabi in our homes, businesses and community. My parents speak Punjabi. But when you see people pushing for us to speak English, not Punjabi, in schools and on the street, that’s taking away identity, taking away culture.”

The NWDC detains immigrants of many different nationalities and religions, including a significant number of Punjabi detainees. Muslim detainees inside have reported disrespectful conditions that make their observance of Ramadan impossible.

After a hot meal provided by FRSO member Gemini Gnull, and several speakers, chanting, and singing, the demonstrators concluded with a guided grieving and empowerment meditation. Tears streamed down the cheeks of several attendees, and despite the tragic circumstances, the crowd kept their eyes locked on victory. “I’m sick and tired of this shit,” said Gnull. “We’ve got to shut it down. And we’re going to.”

#TacomaWA #SeattleWA #WA #ImmigrantRights #ICE #FRSO #LaResistencia