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‘Occupy’ Demonstration Against ICE Pitches Tents Outside Downtown Sacramento Homeland Security Headquarters

Sammy Caiola / Capital Public Radio

Sammy Caiola / Capital Public Radio

Demonstrators who set up tents in an “occupy”-style protest say they’ll keep demonstrating against federal immigration policies in downtown Sacramento, despite warnings from police about their actions violating the city’s anti-camping ordinance.

Eleven tents were lined up Friday afternoon outside a U.S. Department of Homeland Security building near N and Seventh streets. Protesters scribbled “Abolish ICE” on the tents with marker, a reference to wanting to get rid of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The local activists are part of the national “Occupy ICE” movement, started to protest President Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which has separated more 2,300 immigrant children from their parents since early May. The president signed an executive order reversing the policy in June.

But this wasn’t just about immigration. Cardboard signs posted around the encampment made reference to Stephon Clark and Brandon Smith, two local men who died during police encounters.

“We’re here to talk about mass incarceration, we’re here to talk about separation of families,” said organizer Max Will. “This is for every family who has no idea where their parent is or where their kid is. This is for everyone who cannot afford to pay their rent, let alone keep the lights on and food in the fridge.”

When Sacramento police officers showed up mid-day, the vibe was hostile. Officers informed the protesters that they were in violation of the city’s anti-camping ordinance and posted a 24-hour notice on all tents, which gives them a day to clear the property.

An outreach officer was present and attempted to talk to the crowd about finding housing.

“You got a jail cell for us?” asked one of the protesters, before telling the officer to “go home.”

Department Capt. Norm Leong said the “occupy” group is welcome to protest, but must be in compliance with the city’s anti-camping law. He said officers will return tomorrow to remove the tents if necessary.

“We deal with protests and people that may not be happy with our presence and what we’re doing all the time,” he said. “We have training in de-escalation and certainly our intent is not to be confrontational today.”

Demonstrators insisted that they aren’t going anywhere. They’re asking for donations of coffee, additional tents and other supplies. 

Wilson Arias stopped by Friday afternoon to drop off water and fruit. He isn’t associated with the protest, but said as a father of two he supports the cause.

“I can only imagine what these parents are going through being away from their kids,” he said. “It must be painful.”

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