Solidarity across ages, movements, and barbed-wire fences to end indefinite detention
All photos taken by Clifford Skarstedt/Peterborough Examiner/Postmedia Network. See the Peterborough Examiner article here.
On Tuesday August 3rd 2016, the End Immigration Detention Network (EIDN) organized a rally at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay in solidarity with immigration detainees being held there. Supporters gathered behind the medium/maximum security correctional facility to show their support for and celebration of the immigration detainees held behind its barbed wire fences and concrete walls. Almost 60 black and brown immigration detainees – some detained in Lindsay and others in the Toronto East Detention Centre – had just ended an 18-day hunger strike to demand an end to indefinite detention as well as a meeting with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.
The rally began as many EIDN rallies have over the past three years, with a diverse, intergenerational group of folks from Peterborough, Toronto, Lindsay, and other places across Southern Ontario. Over 30 people gathered in the parking lot, but unlike previous rallies at the Centre, a senior administrative official informed us that we “would not be allowed” to walk around the perimeter of the jail without facing trespassing charges.
Never before has this been an issue for EIDN organizers. When we asked why this was now the case, we were given vague answers about “safety issues” and that this was “just the way we do business.” One member of EIDN acutely noted, as the detainees within the jail protest our society’s unjust, racist, colonial border system which threatens and renders vulnerable racialized and marginalized folks, at the same moment the administration of the Centre was drawing its own arbitrary border to keep any type of solidarity or support out of earshot.
As police cars began to block the entrance to the pathway around the perimeter, it became clear that it was quite possible for the situation to escalate. Quickly, the group had a discussion about the reality that some bodies are in more danger than others in the presence of police, at this institution, and in this situation. We talked about how some axes of privilege (white privilege in particular) work to protect certain bodies against brutality, aggressive escalation, or arrest. We decided that each person would make their own decision about what they felt safe doing, either staying in the parking lot to make noise for the detainees or to go around the building despite the warnings of the Centre’s administration. In the end, the police issued no tickets and there was no escalation, however it was clear the jail staff had taken the detainees out of their cells and out of earshot of the rally… something none of us believes to be coincidental.
As I drove home from the rally, I reflected on the many times throughout Aging Activisms events, interviews, and discussions during which older women activists have described the ways in which police and other authorities tend to be more lenient with them because of their age and how they are perceived as nonthreatening. I thought about how many older women activists feel that it is their responsibility to put their bodies on the line, since so many others cannot risk the danger that kind of action would bring to them based on their race, sexuality, class, and other intertwining social locations. I continue to reflect on how privilege influences the experiences that differently situated people have with police. For me, this further accentuates the need to end state violence in all of its forms, whether it be immigration policy, police brutality, repression of protest, arbitrary borders… the list continues.
Butterflies flew in between the fences as we yelled “Freedom to move, Freedom to stay, Freedom to return to our homes one day” at the jail walls; they added a certain darkness, highlighting the inhumane exploitation inherent in the immigration system and border controls that are so deeply tied to oppressive systems of capitalism, race, gender, sexuality, and ability.