Federal Courthouse Shut Down Against ICE
Report from the Elm City chapter of the Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement about anti-ICE actions in Hartford, Connecticut.
On Friday, November 30, members of the Connecticut immigrant rights activist community successfully shut down the federal courthouse in Hartford in protest of the ongoing injustices suffered by Nelson Pinos, his family, and all victims of ICE terror. Nelson, originally from Ecuador, has lived in Connecticut for over twenty years, where he has formed a family, a home, a career, and found community. In November of 2017, he entered into First & Summerfield Congregational Church in New Haven, seeking sanctuary there as a direct refute of the state’s order for his deportation. The lock-down marked the one-year anniversary of this courageous act, and serves as a powerful escalation by the community in its fight for justice for Nelson, his family, and all who suffer under the tyranny of DHS, CBP, ICE, and the police.
Utilizing well-organized nonviolent tactics, eight people locked themselves into 500lb. concrete-filled barrels and to each other with lock boxes, blocking both public entrances to the courthouse. Others sat down in solidarity with those locked down, linking arms across the entire glass facade of the building. Many more stood by, chanting, providing support to the sitters, and creating an energy of resistance on federal property that neither the city, state, nor federal pigs were remotely prepared to counter. All in all, the protesters were able to shut down all appointments for the day, leave safely on their own terms, march to and occupy the atrium of city hall, and disperse without a single arrest or injury. The action signifies a radical intensification of the CT grassroots immigrant rights community’s dedication to the fight against state oppression.
The barrels were unloaded and put into position at around 6:00 am in a surprise rush of the front courtyard. Thirty-odd people stormed the doors at once; those locking down carefully put themselves into position with the support of others present, who assisted with adjustments and other accommodations. Pigs inside stood dumbfounded, gawking like children. City and state pigs arrived (at the tail end of the graveyard shift), and initially kept their distance—likely awaiting paddy wagons and reinforcements. The energy of the protesters was upbeat and charged with rage; the action had begun without a hitch, and people were there to hunker the fuck down. Several folks spoke on a PA about Nelson’s case, the inhumanity of deportation, and the continuing battle against oppression in all its forms.
At around 7:00am, with several dozen pigs now on the scene, city cops came in to begin giving disbursement orders. Non-sitters complied and moved to the sidewalk, leaving the two-dozen sitters blocking the doors to face the pigs head-on. Chanting and singing continued in full force throughout—pig intervention was of course part of the plan, and the protesters were not deterred. Very quickly the pigs realized the seriousness of the lock-down: no one would be able to move the line except for those on the line. With this realization, city cops (visibly furious hahaha) backed off. Seeing the opening, protesters on the sidewalk rejoined the sitters, effectively occupying the entirety of the federal courthouse’s courtyard and public entrance, which they held through the duration of the action.
By 7:30am, Main Street was blocked off and the feds had parked at least nine DHS SUV’s on the curb in front of the courthouse—likely a feeble attempt at intimidation, but to no avail! The protest, by now at least 150 strong, was in full swing. A trumpet and bass drum accompanied singing and dancing, sitters were able to eat and drink with the help of supporters, and direct communication between sitters and non-sitters was again possible.
At around 9:00am, several non-sitters, acting as unwitting pedestrians, approached the rear employee-only entrance to gather intel. At the gate, one asked: “I need to get inside, is there a way in?,” to which the security guard stated that the building was shut down for the day and that all appointments had been canceled. With the news of victory communicated to the sitters, a plan was devised to safely extract all sitters as part of a surprise march to nearby city hall. At around 10:00am, in a coordinated disengagement, all sitters arose simultaneously, and everyone marched at once, leaving the barrels still blocking the doors. With full-throated chants of “Keep Nelson home!”, the charged energy of the protest continued!
Victory in hand and elated with the safe success, the marchers waltzed straight into city hall. More chanting was followed by several more speeches. A few city pigs followed the march inside, but did not intervene. After about half an hour, the protesters dispersed on their own terms. Together they had shut down the federal courthouse’s operations for a day without a single arrest or injury.
The action was organized on back channels—no social media. A major element of the action was surprise, and the people were able to coordinate this because of strong community: different local leftist groups have been building capacity and trust with one another and were able to securely communicate details without fear of major leaks. This surprise action works: with practice, open communication, and the right gear, a small group of people can shut down an entire building. With ICE’s reign of terror worsening, we must fiercely respond. We will not be terrorized! We will not back down!
The action was organized by Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA), a grassroots organization of immigrants taking action for labor, civil, and human rights in New Haven. Members and their allies, including leftists of all stripes, work together under the shared goals espoused by ULA, and this action is a prime example of what can be accomplished with cohesion among different leftist groups. The urgency of these cases requires everyone to work together. The diversity of skills ULA is able to draw from because of its strong community ties afford them the capacity for a wide spectrum of effective tactics.
No announcement has been made as of yet in whether Nelson’s deportation order will be overturned. So be it. Nelson must be reunited with his family, and the community will continue fighting for justice by any means necessary. Smash ICE! Smash fortress USA! Let them in you bastards!
You can call Hartford ICE Supervisor Aldean Beaumont, who has the power to overturn the decision, to add your voice to the effort! Call: 860 240 3012.