On July 23 at least one hundred activists affiliated with the pro-immigrant rights group Movimiento Cosecha marched onto Northeastern University’s campus and “dis-oriented” a student orientation for incoming freshman to the university. The march took aim at Northeastern University, which has come under criticism for having a $2.7 million dollar contract with Immigrations Customs and Enforcement. The university has claimed the maintenance of their contract is about protecting “academic freedom” while dodging the fact that any assistance to ICE, which has and does commit acts of terror on thousands of immigrants and their families, has violated several human rights. The march’s theme was captured with the “We Won’t Be Complicit” slogan demanding that the University drop its contract immediately. Students and staff have signed a petition started by Boston activist Evan Geer, which now has thousands of signatures demanding Northeastern University drop the contract.
The march began off campus, at a nearby park and took to the streets with lively chants like “Outraged and unafraid, immigrants are here to stay!” and “From Palestine to Mexico, border walls have got to go!” The march was electrified with music provided by the activist street band BABAM.
Many people driving by in cars honked in support of the demonstration and many onlookers joined the march as it descended on Ruggles station, which is adjacent to Northeastern University’s campus. At the station, banners were unveiled and hung up for community members to see. The banner read: “No Business with ICE, End All Contracts NOW!”
Welcome to [dis]orientation – Will you be complicit?
The demonstration moved from Ruggles station to Northeastern’s campus and disrupted a student orientation for incoming freshmen at the university.
Thousands of students welcomed Cosecha as they held space and spoke out against the university’s contract with ICE. Cosecha organizer Carlos Gabriel said to a crowd of students and community members: “ICE is a gestapo institution that has been attacking immigrant communities, separating asylum seeking families, caging children…all we are asking is: we won’t be complicit; will you be complicit?” Gabriel then led the crowd in chanting “Abolish ICE” and “outraged and unafraid, immigrants are here to stay.”
While Cosecha activists held space and spoke out, student activists dropped a banner from the roof of the student center that read: “Northeastern – Drop ICE – We Won’t Be Complicit/No Seremos Cómplices.”
Afterwards, the activists marched over to the entrance of the metro station, adjacent to the campus, and continued to speak out. Nino Brown, an organizer with ANSWER and affiliate of Cosecha spoke about the connection between Northeastern University and the military industrial complex. “From 2012 to 2015, President Auon served as a founding member of the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council and Northeastern has received millions of dollars from Raytheon, the world’s largest producer of guided missiles and fifth largest defense contractor. This institution is a think tank for imperialism. Raytheon’s missiles are responsible for scores of deaths in Yemen, Syria, Libya, Palestine. When Northeastern does business with these corporations they hurt our people abroad and at home. We ask the students to take a stand, do not be complicit in these crimes.”
Mourning legislators’ moral failure, demanding action
On the following day hundreds of people gathered at the Massachusetts State house to decry the lack of decisive action taken by Massachusetts legislators to protect all immigrant families. The action was called by several organization such as: Pioneer Valley Workers Center, Massachusetts Community Action Network, Salem No Place for Hate Committee, Episcopal City Mission, Neighbor to Neighbor Lynn, Essex County Community Organization, Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition.
Liberation News spoke with Scott Sternberg, activist with the Essex County Community Organization.
Liberation News: Why did you decide to join this protest?
Scott Sternberg: When the Safe Communities Act didn’t pass, we were disappointed that at a time when Democrats have a supermajority in the house and they didn’t pass anything in support of immigrant families. We had outlined four major things to focus on after the act didn’t pass focused around: 1) ending police collaboration with ICE 2) defending immigrants rights to due process 3) ending all collaborative agreements between the state and ICE and 4) not having a discriminatory registry that traps people based on their national origin. We decided to join with other groups to demand action from our legislators before the end of this legislative session.
Liberation News: Why do you think there has been no action from the Democrats, even with their supermajority?
Sternberg: Well, we have a Republican governor who said he would veto the Safe communities act, without even reading it, so a lot of the Democratic leadership were not willing to present things the governor would veto. But, the real risk is not whether or not he will or will not veto the act; the real risk is to the immigrant community.
As the struggle continues the politicians that represent the bourgeois state will be exposed by their actions and their inactions with regard to pressing issues that the working and oppressed classes face. The Democratic party has tried to get out ahead of the movement, opportunistically positioning themselves as some kind of “alternative” to the Republicans, but their proposals are to keep families together, but still imprisoned together. They are against the abolition of ICE as an institution and forget that ICE was built up under Democratic President Barack Obama who deported a record number of immigrants earning him the title “deporter in chief.” Revolutionaries must continue to patiently explain that the Democratic party is just another side of the same coin. The real alternative is not be found within the two major capitalist parties, but through the mass struggle of self-organized working class. The Democrats and Republicans are of the bourgeoisie and are embedded with the banks, corporations, and military industrial complex. They cannot solve the problems of the working class simply because they’re a fundamental problem to the working class. As the saying goes “Corn can’t expect justice from a court composed of chickens.”
Build July 31st – National Day of Action to Abolish ICE
Coming off the wave of massive pro-immigrant demonstrations, Movimiento Cosecha has called for July 31 to be a national day of action to abolish ICE. As the organization states about their action: “We cannot wait for the White House and Congress to act. On July 31, we are taking action to #AbolishICE by targeting the institutions ICE relies on to function day in and day out. It is our moral duty to refuse to be complicit with ICE’s deportation machine at every level and demand that the institutions we are part of do the same. #WeWontBeComplicit.”
All progressive and revolutionary people should be in agreement. We cannot wait on the two capitalist parties who created this crisis to solve it. Any substantive change for the masses of undocumented immigrants and for the working class as a whole has to come through mass-based struggle that targets those in power.
We are reminded of the great abolitionist Frederick Douglas in his “West India Emancipation” speech: “Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.
“This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”