Charlotte police arrested ten undocumented activists after they shut down an intersection just blocks from the Democratic National Convention in a coordinated act of civil disobedience.
The activists, all passengers on the Undocubus as part of the No Papers No Fear campaign that we wrote about earlier today, got off their bus at the corner of Fourth and Tryon in downtown Charlotte at 4pm, then led supporters and a substantial press entourage racing through the streets a few blocks northeast to the site of their action. Once in the intersection, they dropped a large banner and sat on it, holding up signs that read “Undocumented.”
The activists were quickly encircled by a large contingent of officers on foot and on bicycles, but police waited more than 40 minutes before taking action. In the meantime, the protesters, ranging in age from their 20s to late middle age and including a mother and her daughter, passed around a megaphone explaining why they were there: to force Barack Obama, who has presided over more deportations than any other president in history, to live up to his rhetoric of offering dignity and justice for immigrants.
“The Republicans have decided which side they’re on on this issue, and it’s the wrong side,” said Marisa Franco, a member of No Papers No Fear who was not part of the arrests today. Obama is about to be renominated to be president for another four more years. He has to decide which side he’s on: does he want his legacy to be as the Deporter-in-Chief, or as the president who advances the rights of all Americans?”
As the police waited, a hard rain began to fall, soaking police, press and protesters alike. Still, the standoff remained. Delegates and conventioneers on their way to the convention center stopped and stared, trying to understand what was happening. Protesters chanted “No papers, no fear! Dignity is standing here!” and “Obama! Escucha! Estamos en la lucha!”
Eventually, after 5pm, a police major approached with a bullhorn, and told the ten protesters that if they didn’t move in five minutes, they faced arrest. The given time elapsed, and the major gave the warning again.
Two arrest vans backed up to the intersection. After a third warning, the commanding officer gave the signal, and the arrests began.
Because they’re undocumented, the arrested activists face deportation. They said before the action that they are prepared for that possibility, but over recent months, the No Papers No Fear campaign has found that explicitly political arrests of undocumented protesters, particularly when coupled with media attention, tends not to result in deportation — a stark contrast from most other encounters of undocumented immigrants with law enforcement.
We’ll have an update when we know the fate of those arrested.