Guest Post: Who among us is proud to fly an American flag over a concentration camp?

'To those who argue that the radical protesters went too far and crossed a line, we disagree.'

Outside the Aurora ICE Processing Center, an upside down American Flag, which is the signal for distress, is displayed over someones shoulder. (Photo by Cullen Lobe for The Colorado Independent)
Outside the Aurora ICE Processing Center, on 7/12/19, a protester holds an upside-down American Flag, a signal for distress. The 34 people ICE says it arrested between July 7 and 11 in a targeted sweep across Colorado and Wyoming were taken to the Aurora facility and will be deported, a spokeswoman said. (Photo by Cullen Lobe)

On Friday July 12th, a diverse group of leftist organizations and activists known as the Coalition to Close the Concentration Camps (CCCC) marched in protest of the human rights abuses inflicted upon immigrants by the American government and the corporations that profit from their detainment. The march ended on the street in front of the Aurora ICE Detention Facility, owned and operated by the for-profit GEO Group, where it merged with the Lights for Liberty (L4L) vigil. 

Following the lead of a group of indigenous people and people of color who have been impacted by state violence, a large number of protesters broke from the crowd, crossed the temporary cordon onto the GEO Group property, and continued to peacefully demonstrate near the doors of the facility. This action occurred spontaneously, without a leading organization, and included protesters from both the CCCC march and the Lights for Liberty vigil. Gathered more than 100 yards away from the L4L event, the breakaway group did not disrupt the vigil or antagonize its attendees, as they focused their protest on the facility itself and the complicit GEO Group employees visible inside the building. 

Despite claims that the breakaway protest was unsafe or threatening, the protesters held a strictly nonviolent demonstration. They participated in chants (“Let Them In,” “Close the Camps,” “All the Power to All the People”), they heard speeches from those affected by abusive anti-immigrant policy, and they circled around a group of indigenous people who sang, offered prayer, and urged solidarity with all demonstrators. Most of all, they demanded their right to stand before the doors of the facility, a reminder that the detention center itself sits on stolen land and that the borders between nations were created by American and European imperialists in very recent history. In spite of their non-violent action, the activists were repeatedly harangued and insulted by the L4L organizers, who seemed to be more outraged by the impropriety of the gathering than by the abuses inflicted within the facility. There was zero response from the police. 

“It is absurd to equate peaceful occupation of GEO property and the damage of three pieces of nylon with violence.”

The most publicized aspect of the protest was the removal of the GEO Group flag, Colorado state flag, and United States flag. These acts, along with the move to raise a Mexican flag, an “Abolish ICE” flag, and a “Fuck the Cops” flag, were spontaneous actions carried out by a cross-section of demonstrators in protest against the GEO Group and state institutions that profit from violence against citizens and non-citizens alike. The flags were brought to the demonstration by various protesters. Contrary to reports that “Abolish ICE” was written on an American flag, it was in fact a “Blue Lives Matter” flag, already a bastardization of American symbolism in service to the authoritarian police state. The Mexican flag was raised in solidarity with immigrants from all nations who have been systematically targeted, harassed, and abused in this country. The fact that the media has obsessed over this single moment in the protest over any other is a symptom of a system designed by corporate powers to create distraction and sow division among groups who share the same goals.

It is absurd to equate peaceful occupation of GEO property and the damage of three pieces of nylon with violence. It is wrong to label a diverse group of radical, non-violent protesters as a threat. The protection of undocumented people is of the highest importance, and the real danger to them came from Lights for Liberty organizers who collaborated with police and invited them to be present throughout the entire event. That poor decision was followed by a reckless one, when an L4L organizer took the stage — interrupting the poem of a young man whose mother is detained in the camp — to claim that the police had ordered the crowd to disperse. (The Aurora police chief later said he had issued no such order.) Immigrants and people of color live under the constant threat of violence from police. The L4L organizer’s use of that real risk made most of the protesters depart, leaving the folks who stayed even more vulnerable. That action was an attack against everyone peacefully assembled there. 

Hundreds of protesters demonstrate against Trump administration immigration policy and private detention facilities at the GEO Group-owned detention facility In Aurora, Colo. on July 12, 2019. (Photo by Cullen Lobe)
Hundreds of protesters demonstrate against Trump administration immigration policy and private detention facilities at the GEO Group-owned detention facility In Aurora, Colo. on July 12, 2019. (Photo by Cullen Lobe for The Colorado Independent)

Finally, to those who argue that the radical protesters went too far and crossed a line, we disagree. Using respectability politics to denounce actions taken by and alongside impacted immigrants and people of color is shameful, divisive, and plays into the hands of authorities who prefer a quiet and complacent public. Legality and morality are not synonymous, and no movement against authoritarian policy can be successful if individuals are unnerved by simple and peaceful civil disobedience. Are any among us proud to see an American flag waving over a concentration camp? 

The Boulder Democratic Socialists of America stand in radical solidarity with those struggling to dismantle ICE, the carceral state, and U.S. imperialism. The people must pick up the sledgehammer themselves to abolish ICE and liberate all those trapped inside the GEO concentration camps: Brick by brick, wall by wall, flag by flag.

The Colorado Independent occasionally runs guest posts from government officials, local experts and concerned citizens on a variety of topics. These posts are meant to provide diverse perspectives and do not represent the views of The Independent. To pitch a guest post, please contact tips@coloradoindependent.com or visit our submission page.

23 COMMENTS

  1. Calling these places, concentration camps, greatly diminishes those who were massacred (and those that survived) in the real WWII Nazi concentration camps. Exaggerating the current realty does this legitimate cause no justice.

  2. My career as a jet driver allowed me to travel extensively Been to the camps in southern Poland they will make you cry. and am old enough to have known some survivors growing up around Poles and Ukranian’s in Detroit These border holding facilities ain’t the same no matter how many times the lies are repeated.
    democratic socialist’s huh? how is forced redistribution democratic?

      • dumb nobody representing fear and silence, fronting positivity and larger support by crawling over news articles to lick the boots of cowardly fake accounts beginning, middling, and ending with lies..

  3. Maybe someone has the balls to answer:

    So what do you say to the Jews protesting “never again” in front of these facilities all over the country.

    You think they have it wrong too?

      • Anywhere? How about a Trump….I mean Klan rally?

        Unfortunately for your argument, America is far from infallible.

        I’m proud to stand with the Jews opposed to these horrific detention centers.

        I guess Conservatives can’t say the same.

        • “I’m proud to stand with the Jews opposed to these horrific detention centers.”

          Then I’m sure you’ll proudly stand in solidarity with these groups/individuals who also oppose detention centers:

          “Never Again Action’s materials say Democrats as well as Republicans bear responsibility for the conditions in the facilities.”

          https://www.jta.org/2019/07/12/united-states/the-jews-getting-arrested-at-ice-centers-are-just-getting-started

          **********

          “Despite the posturing of certain of its members, the Democratic Party is hostile to immigrant rights. Its members in the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed two versions of legislation providing over $4 billion to ICE and CBP to fund their xenophobic crackdown. Senate Democrats also voted overwhelmingly to fund the American Gestapo.”

          “President Donald Trump is building on the policies of his Democratic predecessor, who deported more immigrants than any other president.”
          https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/07/03/prot-j03.html

          **********

          “Political actors must understand that to invoke the Holocaust as an applicable metaphor to contemporary events is to co-opt something that was incomparable, and in a way that is painful for many in our community,” Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston President Jeremy Burton wrote. “The result is that a sacred Jewish vulnerability – including the profound trauma and lived experience of survivors who are still with us – is being weaponized for partisan purposes.”

          https://www.masslive.com/news/2019/07/never-again-holocaust-comparisons-in-immigration-protests-expose-rift-among-jewish-groups.html

          **********

          “Democrats are also either enabling or tacitly supporting the immigration deportation machine, and they also need to be held accountable for their lack of action,”one of the protest movement’s lead organizers Alyssa Rubin said.”

          https://www.huffpost.com/entry/never-again-action-ice-protests_n_5d1cc0abe4b0f312567d7267

          **********

          “The activists demand the abolition of ICE and the closing of the detention centers—a demand that, (Rebecca) Oliver says, targets Republicans and Democrats alike. In Chicago, activists criticized Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth for voting in favor of a $4.6 billion humanitarian aid package that came with fewer restrictions on the administration than were in the House version of the bill.”

          https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2019/7/9/1870481/-Jewish-activists-Immigrant-detention-centers-fit-every-definition-of-a-concentration-camp

          **************************
          “At this point, (President)Trump has won a huge political victory — there’s really no argument there — and Democrats and other anti-Trumpists who thought (the Mueller Report) would somehow lead to Trump’s impeachment and then removal from office have to re-examine all their premises.”

          No conspiracy
          No collusion
          No impeachment

          • Weird that Jews didn’t hold nationwide protests under Obama, that is if your “both sides” tinfoil theory were correct.

            Maybe you folks should reserve the selective outrage for the folks doing bad things in the name of your flag, instead of to your flag.

            Just a thought.

          • Don Lopez… haaaa, wow you are all over the place. And your whataboutism is thankfully not contagious but we will need to quarantine you for a few years to ensure you don’t harm yourself or others.

        • If you’d look closely at real Klan gatherings, you’d notice that they nearly always display the Confederate Battle Flag. My ancestors fought for the Union, and I find your disrespect for the American flag offensive.

          • Mr. Weller,

            I enjoy your comments and share your pride in seeing the American flag!

            I also share your contempt for those who disrespect or deface the flag.

            I hope you’ll continue to contribute.

          • Nope. Snowflake outrage not allowed.

            Racism is wrong….even if it’s wrapped in the American flag.

            Pass the word.

  4. To answer the question: Me! I’m proud to see the American flag flying anywhere.

    I’ve probably lived as humbly as any poor immigrant. I was a homeless camper in Boulder and its environs for a decade, living without social services benefits of any kind and I did so without wealthy white do-gooders “advocating” on my behalf. I saw right through their self-serving game and never had a thing to do with ’em, beyond harshly criticizing the phony grandstanding. (I’m proud to have been blocked from the Facebook page of Boulder Rights Watch, too.)

    Now that I live in a nursing home in another city, I continue to follow local and state politics . . . I can always use the comic relief provided by self-righteous Far Left groups like Boulder Democratic Socialists.

  5. Certain good points in this commentary, Sounds like the lack of communication and organization led to some bad interactions. Groups need to check their motive and reasons for this kind of demonstration. Was it to get attention, probably and they did. NON-violent protests usually had pre-training and solid communication from all speakers involved.
    My other issue, the flags, the flags. The powerful media shooting the facilities flying the US and Colorado flags shows the country and rest of the world where this GEO’s mission lies. The Mexican flag, really, Mexico is helping create more human rights abuse of the aslyum seekers and people coming across the border, BECAUSE THEIR IMMIGRATION POLICIES SUCK TOO!!
    LONG LIVE THE RIGHT TO EXERCISE OUR FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS!!!

  6. There are those go just a little crazy when anyone suggests both parties may be culpable. They make 5th graders look mature.

    “Despite the posturing of certain of its members, the Democratic Party is hostile to immigrant rights. Its members in the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed two versions of legislation providing over $4 billion to ICE and CBP to fund their xenophobic crackdown. Senate Democrats also voted overwhelmingly to fund the American Gestapo.”

    “President Donald Trump is building on the policies of his Democratic predecessor, who deported more immigrants than any other president.”

    https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/07/03/prot-j03.html

    • Pointing out the intellectually dishonest use of False Equivalency isn’t “crazy”.

      In fact, such pronouncements are an example of intellectually dishonest Gaslighting.

      • “I’m proud to stand with the Jews opposed to these horrific detention centers.”

        Are you also proud to stand with the Jews who suggest that Democrats are also responsible for what you describe as “horrific detention centers” or are those Jews guilty of “intellectually dishonest Gaslighting.”?

        —– “Never Again Action’s materials say Democrats as well as Republicans bear responsibility for the conditions in the facilities.”

        Are you also proud to stand with the Jews who point to governmental data, “showing the Obama administration has deported more people than any other president’s administration in history. In fact, they have deported more than the sum of all the presidents of the 20th century.”, Or are those Jews guilty of “intellectually dishonest Gaslighting.”?

        —– “Despite the posturing of certain of its members, the Democratic Party is hostile to immigrant rights. Its members in the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed two versions of legislation providing over $4 billion to ICE and CBP to fund their xenophobic crackdown. Senate Democrats also voted overwhelmingly to fund the American Gestapo.”

        “President Donald Trump is building on the policies of his Democratic predecessor, who deported more immigrants than any other president.””

        Are you being “intellectually dishonest” when you avoid answering questions you’re too embarrassed to address?

        Just wondering.

  7. Since this is the second or third time I’ve had to remind you of this…it’s starting to smell like lies in here again.

    Dems don’t have to be without fault for them not to be equally to blame.

    That’s what makes it “false” equivalency.

    Should you write this down or something?

  8. It does smell like lies and the smell is coming from you!

    I merely pointed out that the same Jewish groups you claim to proudly stand with are saying Democrats are also culpable for what you describe as “horrific detention centers.”

    I never used the word equivalent. Never.

    Here’s what I did say, “There are those go just a little crazy when anyone suggests both parties may be culpable. They make 5th graders look mature”

    Let me repeat it since you seem to have problems reading what is printed, “There are those go just a little crazy when anyone suggests both parties may be culpable. They make 5th graders look mature”

    You’ve already admitted, “dems aren’t perfect”. I was just agreeing.

    You need to calm down and start reading what is printed.

    Got it? I could repeat it slower if that’s what you need.

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