It was a chilly Thursday evening around 10pm when the reports started circulating on social media that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had kidnapped a family of undocumented people in Geneseo, right on the campus. Students confronted ICE, capturing the encounter on video, and news reached networks of organizers and activists in Rochester. Intel was vague, but an emergency rally was called at the Border Patrol Station in Irondequoit.
A crowd quickly gathered, then grew. As the protesters grew in number, the police presence became stronger. A large group of students drove in from Geneseo, and immediately got to work raising money for the families. A lone red and black flag flapped in the cold wind as chants of “Cops and borders, we don’t need em! What we want is total freedom!” rose from the mob.
Hardly any actual Border Patrol officers were to be seen, but plenty of Irondequoit, County, and State piggies were on hand. As the crowd became too large to contain in front of the station, they cordoned off the station from the sidewalk with crime scene tape – to which, of course, the protesters responded that it was clearly ICE and the police who were the criminals here.
Regular reports were made on the status of our brothers and sisters inside the station. It was made very clear that we weren’t leaving, and that we demanded their immediate release.
It was announced, to loud cheers, that most of the arrestees were being turned over to the Pastor of their church, who had been waiting with a large van. People power and a line in the sand had directly freed these people from state persecution in the Trump era. When we fight, we win!
The mood quickly became more serious when it came to light that they were going to move the remaining arrestee to the detention center in Buffalo, quite literally ripping a mother from her child. A team scrambled, pledging to blockade the Border Patrol vehicles from leaving. A tense hour passed, with people on the action team watching the cops’ every move from the sidewalk. Protesters started up anti-police chants, as there was no denying that the Irondequoit Police, County Sheriff’s department, and State Troopers were now facilitating the breaking up of a family, right in front of us.
A false alarm demonstrated the speed and discipline of the action team, who had not been able to plan in advance much at all. A large SUV with dark tinted windows attempted to leave the driveway of the station, and within seconds a blockade was thrown up across the driveway, protesters locking arms and sitting in front of the police line. It was a Border Patrol guard (or something), trying to leave and go home after work. The protesters controlled the situation, and the police were forced to let one of them look inside the vehicle before they would let it pass.
More extremely tense time passed. Numbers at the protest started to dwindle, as it became the early morning, and it was very cold. Border Patrol made their move, and the blockade sprang back into place. The police spokesman tried to communicate that everyone would be arrested – or something. Nobody could hear him over the determined, loud chanting from blockaders and supporters: “Let them go!”
The police could have easily arrested the folks on the line, and carried out their disgusting task. Instead, they took the most cowardly route possible, using a decoy vehicle and then fleeing through an adjacent parking lot, tearing mother from child. The pigs started to laugh and mock the blockaders. Some heartbroken protesters clashed with police, the crime scene tape was torn down, and two arrests were made.
In the end, it was a net win, and all of the undocumented arrestees were soon released. The fact that the community could immediately mobilize a crowd of 200 people to defend their neighbors from “Homeland Security,” and then successfully demand the release of detainees should be instructive for those who want to resist the Trump agenda. No amount of letter writing, voting, petitions, or phone calls will ever be as powerful as a little courage and some direct action.