Last Friday thousands of people joined together for “Lights for Liberty” vigils in more than 700 cities. The vigils came ahead of yesterday’s nationwide raids by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. The vigils were designed to bring attention to the treatment of immigrants in detention centers across the country.
Thousands took to the street outside of the GEO/ICE Immigrant Detention Center located in Aurora, Colorado. Then, due to both independent group’s actions and anxieties over rumored police mobilization, the event was abruptly cut short by the organizers at about a quarter after 8. KGNU’s Veronica Straight-Lingo was there and reports on what happened next.
Oakland Street in Aurora was packed shoulder to shoulder on Friday evening as thousands of protesters were straining to hear testimonials from immigrants and speeches from Aurora City Council members, when suddenly at around 8:10, some of the organizers addressed the crowd abut concerns over police intervention.
Patti Lampman, from the protest organizing group Lights for Liberty, said the decision to disperse the crowd was made over concerns over safety.
“We had people on federal property doing a protest. That is against the agreement that we made when we filed our permit for this protest and for this vigil. And so because of that, we asked them to come back. If they choose not to come back, then I had no option but to think about the safety of the crowd that was here. Because if they did not disperse and come back from the detention center, then the police would come in and disperse it. And so I had to think about the safety of the people here, and I asked them to disperse.”
While Lampman noted that the decision was made based on the concern that police might respond, protesters were indeed told that police were mobilizing at the time the request to disperse was made. The group Lampman described, was comprised of about 50-100 members who crossed the private parking lot, and took more direct action on the facility itself. A member of that separate group, speaking in anonymity, described what they did.
“So, basically what we did, we tore down those flags. We put better flags up. We went ahead and barricaded that door. And then we kind of just melted back as they came out as ‘rat cops’. They’re all suited up, you know, in armor and **** so like you know obviously nobody wants to get hurt. So we’re just trying to keep everybody safe out here, you know? We don’t want anybody to get hurt, so we kinda just melded back.”
Despite the call from Lights for Liberty to disperse, several hundred people remained on Oakland street. “[I’m] suspicious.” Said Meredith [No Last Name Given], “My suspicions were validated when I learned that the cops were not in fact ordering the protest to break up….The organizers were acting out of some concern that there might be a police raid.”
When asked how they know this to be the case, Boulderite Anne Waldman explained, “The police at the corner…I just arrived from Boulder and they-I said I wanna get down there, and he said, ‘fine, go right through.’ So there’s some miscommunication and I think people probably jumped the gun in thinking that there could be problems and [people] could be arrested. That could still happen, one never knows.”
Then a little after 8:30pm, protesters who remained heard this announcement.
“The Aurora Police Department just tweeted out that there were not any dispersal orders that were given. That the dispersal order that was given was false, and that the Aurora Police Department said that there was no dispersal order, and you all are still okay to be here [Cheers]”
Over two hundred protesters remained throughout the vigil. With several of the disparate group joining the vigil until its end at 9:00.
About 200 people turned out at Boulder’s downtown bandshell, including 2nd District Congressman Joe Neguse who told the crowd they were part of “good trouble” – trouble that is calling attention to the inhumane treatment of migrants. KGNU’s Roz Brown captured the congressman remarks and other voices.