In the age of COVID-19 physical distancing, organizers in San Diego are getting creative with their tactics. On March 31, a coalition of organizations including Otay Mesa Detention Resistance, Never Again Action and Jewish Action Norcal called a COVID-safe car rally to bring attention to ongoing struggles in concentration camps like Otay Mesa Detention Center.
Many local individuals as well as community organizers from the Party for Socialism and Liberation, ANSWER Coalition and other groups participated in the action. The event was centered around a demand to release all immigrant detainees and the hashtag #FreeThemAll. Sister rallies also took place in Sacramento and Los Angeles.
“It’s important for organizers to be as creative as possible,” said Pedro Rios, Director of the American Friends Service Committee in San Diego and one of the participants in the protest. “The pandemic has changed how we interact with each other, but that doesn’t mean we have to give up our push towards social justice and uplifting everyone’s human dignity. We need to raise this important issue of people who are being detained, especially in the context of a pandemic and because private companies are profiting off of it.”
Participants decorated their vehicles with signs and banners, gathering separately in their cars in a public parking lot. They wore personal protective equipment and maintained physical distance. Then, the group of cars drove together in a continuous loop around downtown San Diego. They honked their horns and chanted from open windows.
Otay Mesa Detention Resistance also hosted a live broadcast for participants to listen to in their cars. The broadcast included bilingual statements from detainees talking about their poor conditions in the camps, demands for California Governor Gavin Newsom to release all ICE detainees, and information about how deadly a virus like COVID-19 can be in crowded detention facilities.
Migrants and refugees have little or no access to basic healthcare and sanitary services. People in the migrant concentration camps have been organizing hunger strikes and demanding better conditions as the virus continues to spread. Please consider signing the Party for Socialism and Liberation’s local and state-wide petitions that include demands to free prisoners and protect undocumented people immediately.