Close the Camps

Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders…and millions have been killed because of this obedience…Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty.” ― Howard Zinn,“The Problem is Civil Obedience”

Young protesters hold a banner that reads "Close the Camps" at a Play Date Protest in San Francisco, CA

In February of 2018, recent Anne Braden Program alum Jordon Dyrdahl-Roberts committed a brave act of individual civil disobedience. He was working at the Montana Department of Labor when his supervisor asked him to process some subpoenas for ICE. Jordon looked inside himself and realized he could not continue to lend labor to a machine that was separating families and he quit his job.

As the US government continues to ramp up its attacks on migrants, refugees and their families, it is up to all of us to stop them. In the past weeks our collective outrage has grown as the conditions in the government’s concentration camps have continued to come to light with the administration’s lawyers arguing against providing soap and toothpaste to detained children. We have watched as Trump threatened to deport millions, tearing families apart. And we have watched as Democrats in the House and Senate capitulated and granted $4.6 billion more funding for this monstrous deportation and detention force. 

The outrage is fueling acts of courage, acts that we will need to continue to multiply and magnify to shut down the camps and stop the raids.

Japanese American survivors of US concentration camps participated in an act of civil disobedience led by Tsuru for Solidarity at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. Fort Sill’s history as the end of the Trail of Tears, the site for the incarceration of Bedankohe Apache warrior and prisoner of war Geronimo, a location of a Japanese American internment camp, and a detention camp for migrants under Obama and now Trump, mirrors the long history of US colonization and racialized violence. 

Organizers have forced JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America to stop providing loans to private detention facilities. This is huge, and we know that we need to fight to close all of the camps. Public cages are no better than private cages. Highlights, the children’s magazine that many of us remember fondly, used its platform to speak against the camps saying, “…[W]e denounce the practice of separating immigrant children from their families and urge our government to cease this activity, which is unconscionable and causes irreparable damage to young lives.” In Milwaukee, hundreds of United Church of Christ members blocked the ICE garage. When an ICE investigator tried to get information about a student at Berkeley City College in California, employees in multiple departments refused to supply the information and went public about the incident. 36 protesters were arrested when hundreds of Jews using the hashtag #NeverAgainIsNow blocked the entrance to a migrant detention center in New Jersey

Meanwhile, in Boston, hundreds of workers at the headquarters of Wayfair walked off their jobs after their company sold beds to ICE detention facilities. Their coworkers in Maine joined the action in solidarity. 

Jordon Dyrdahl-Roberts was heartened seeing these mass acts of civil disobedience. “These are people stepping up. It affirms that collective action is so much more powerful than individual action. It’s been so inspiring to see people realizing we have to do more than just be outraged.” 

In this moment of heightened violence and heightened resistance, we all need to continue to ramp up the pressure. Jordon says, “Our effectiveness is shaped by where we’re located. It’s time to start making some sacrifices. If masses of people act together, we are more protected. If we can do this together, we are so much stronger than they are.”  

Think about yourself. Think about the places in your life where you are complicit with this administration. Think about the ways you, from your location, have leverage and power. Plug in and act!