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Protesters Regroup After Police Tear Down Encampment Outside Detention Center

Courtesy of Occupy NWDC
Photo of a July 21 protest outside the Northwest Detention Center in which activists blocked a bus from entering


Protesters outside the Northwest Detention Center say they're regrouping after a police raid ended their multi-week encampment. 

Tacoma police said they cleared the encampment Monday after someone built a blockade and scattered roofing tacks in the road outside the Northwest Detention Center.

"Separate from the previous peaceful demonstrations, the barricade blocking the roadway had been painted with anarchist symbols and roofing tacks had been dumped across the roadway to damage vehicles travelling across the roadway surface," police said in a news release.

The barricade was made of pieces of a nearby fence meant to keep protesters off railroad tracks and reinforced by wooden pallets. Officers arrested one woman for "malicious mischief," a police spokeswoman said. 

Police and city workers also threw away the tents, tarps, signs, food and medical supplies that made up the encampment, where protesters have had an almost constant presence for more than five weeks.

"This is only the second time in the over the month that we've been here that we have not had people on site overnight," said Danielle Johnston, one of the organizers with the protest movement, which calls itself Occupy NWDC. 

Videos shot by protesters show a line of police in riot gear blocking the road while the encampment is torn down. 

"If there was criminal activity, we didn’t necessarily know anything about it," Johnston added. "And they still needed to give us notice that they were coming and that they were going to throw away all of our items."

As many as 30 people had been staying at the encampment overnight recently, some of them homeless, Johnston said. Some lost tents, medications, and other belongings in the raid, she said. Protesters are raising money to replace the items.

The group included protesters who traveled north after taking part in a Portland protest that temporarily shut down a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, she added.

Protesters opposed to the detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants have rallied outside the Northwest Detention Center for years. Their presence grew in June, after a national tumult over the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy on illegal immigration, which resulted in thousands of children being separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

A July 12, 2018 story that aired on KNKX about daily "noise rallies" outside the Northwest Detention Center

For the past several weeks, encampment residents and their supporters have banged pans, buckets, and other objects during "noise rallies" each morning and evening. The rallies are designed to show support for people detained inside the center.

Police have clashed with residents of the encampment in the past. On June 26, officers arrested 10 people after responding to reports of people blocking the road.

On July 21, protesters stood in the street, blocking a bus from entering the detention center and guards from leaving, for about two hours before dispersing peacefully. 

Protesters at the encampment held different views, but broadly opposed U.S. immigration policy under President Trump. Some called for the abolishment of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and objected to the existence of the Northwest Detention Center, where as many as 1,575 people are held as they await deportation proceedings.

Johnston said she thinks the protests will continue in some form.

"A lot of the members of this movement have no interest in not continuing to push this movement forward," she said. "How that shows up and how it manifests is going to depend on where we go from here, but we're not done." 

Will James reports and produces special projects, including podcasts and series, for KNKX. He created and hosted the Outsiders podcast, chronicling homelessness in Olympia for more than a year, in partnership with The Seattle Times.
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