Sunday, September 9, 2012

"Dignity is Standing Here. No Papers. No Fear"

Asheville & Charlotte, North Carolina:  

Scores of Asheville supporters gathered to welcome the No Papers No Fear Ride for Justice and its courageous crew when the “UndocuBus” stopped here on August 30th.
1970-era converted Greyhound "UndocuBus arrives in Asheville

The national delegation of undocumented people and their allies left Phoenix, Arizona on July 29th, the anniversary of the state’s implementation of SB1070, for a cross-country ride to rally the migrant community to overcome fear and organize to challenge anti-immigrant policies. 

Sitting down for a shared meal in Asheville
We shared a meal and conversations at the  WNC CHS fellowship hall  in West Asheville provided by Rosetta’s kitchen, and served by members of the UnitarianUniversalist church of Asheville, where the caravan’s weary travelers found overnight rest.   

Travelers shared stories of their circumstances and experiences and told why they dared to “come out of the shadows” and stand up for immigrant justice.  Simultaneous translations were provided so that all could speak “in the language they live and dream in,” so their courageous stories could be heard with the power of their native tongue.
The emblem of the migratory Monarch butterfly brightened the shirts they wore and the banners they carried all along the journey, and in the  march through the streets of Charlotte. The banner also provided a place to sit down in the streets of the "Queen City" to call for human rights and dignity.

Marching in Charlotte
Asheville folks were present to witness the bold and inspiring action on September 2, when  immigrants sat down in the pouring rain in the streets outside the convention hall where the DNC convened. They chanted  "No Papers. No Fear," holding high the placards reading "Undocumented."

Surrounded in the streets in Charlotte in the pouring rain
Due to the public and community support they have garnered, and their organizational skill and solidarity, all were released without being placed in deportation proceedings, though the risk was real.

They are determined, disciplined and dedicated in their actions to challenge the unjust immigration policies of the U.S. government and were successful in bringing their story to the middle of the immigration debate at the Democratic National Convention.

The stop in Asheville was coordinated through various immigrant advocacy and action groups including Defensa Communitaria and Nuestro Centro. 

Over the last six years, immigrants and advocates in Western North Carolina have been organizing against racial profiling, deportations, and the use of
Boots on the Butterfly Banner DNC
police check points targeting Latinos and undocumented immigrants. 

In November 2011, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted a work place raid at the Shogun restaurant. Twelve workers  have been placed in deportation proceedings following the raid and efforts are underway to reverse that decision.

The No Papers No Fear ride was inspired by actions of undocumented students, such as coming out of the shadows events and civil disobedience actions, that have demonstrated the power and results of communities acting and speaking for themselves.

On the ground in Charlotte
Story by Clare Hanrahan
Photos:  Clare Hanrahan & Coleman Smith

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Queen City: Locking Down for Democracy

Locked Down in the Queen City
An alarming number of armed forces have converged in Charlotte.  They are occupying the downtown streets and buildings, lurking in doorways, riding along on trains and buses, and sitting loaded and ready on the back of fire trucks parked along side streets in an astounding display of coercive power.

Young men are stationed here and there and everywhere with their “Secret Service” designation ironically embroidered on shirts or jackets, while state, local and municipal police from throughout the region, many on foot in tight squadrons, parade along the sidewalks, hover in the wide entrances to parking garages, race through on bicycles, stand ready on horses, maneuver through the streets on motorcycles or inside squad cars and other wheeled conveyances.  A variety of private security personnel stand guard outside banks and other corporate buildings or in front of fenced off courtyard entrances to hotels. 
Walking the streets of Charlotte
Camouflage-clad soldiers with automatic rifles slung over their shoulder stand at guard stations outside police outposts, or patrol residential neighborhoods providing armed backup for the already heavily armed police. As one remarked, “All I'm suppoised to do is stand here and not go to sleep."
Militarized police or Military policing?
An array of credentials swing from lanyards around the necks of passers by, each granting access to various insider events. The streets outside the convention center are crowded with delegates, protesters and tourists from around the world moving among local residents and workers. News teams lug cameras and microphones  along the sidewalks passing beneath the neon lights and corporate towers of the Queen City.   

Periodic downpours drench the crowds as traffic officers with shiny brass whistles attempt to keep the flow going. Buses of delegates unloading  at the convention center, lines of commuters climbing to the train platform, carloads of VIPs are whisked through, and large dogs are deployed to sniff around inside and outside the cars and taxis lined up for entrance into areas restricted to the general traffic.

Hot & crowded streets before the downpour
Loaded & Ready on a downtown Charlotte Street
All this show of coercive force is moving among We the People overtly and covertly in this land of the free while delegates gather with little more to do than cheer for the party platform and politicians spew their predictable rhetoric in restricted access arenas.   

And the wars go on at home, beyond our borders and across the seas…against the poor, the undocumented, and the indigenous who stand in the way of resource extraction and global domination. And the wars continue against the Earth with resource extraction by fracking and mountain top removal coal mining and the perpetual poisons of nuclear power and weapons....and on and on. 

Photos & Report  by Clare Hanrahan

Stay tuned for eye-witness report of the Sept. 4 bold, brave and inspiring immigrant rights action "No Papers, No Fear!" by folks who traveled through Asheville  on the Undocu Bus.