The Occupy movement has returned. Unlike “the 1 percent” in 2011, its target this season is ICE–the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency of the U.S. government.
Last month, in the wake of the bad PR that has recently been associated with ICE, protesters in the city of Portland, Oregon, provided the spark that lit the fire to start the latest Occupy movement.
A tiny vigil on June 17 at Portland’s ICE headquarters only two days later mushroomed into a tent city encampment of several hundred protesters, all of them dedicated to shutting down ICE.
In addition to arresting, detaining, and deporting illegal aliens, the agency, according to Politifact, “probes human smuggling and trafficking; financial crimes and money laundering; transnational gang activity, and other crimes.”
The Portland demonstrators were opposed to ICE’s enforcement of the Trump administration’s new zero-tolerance policy on aliens who cross illegally into the United States. The issue gained traction in light of the “separation of families” meme that was pushed by advocates of open borders, the Democratic Party, and much of the mainstream media.
On June 19, participants in Occupy ICE PDX (Portland), as it came to be called, harassed the ICE building’s workers when they tried to leave for home. The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE, announced that the building would remain closed until further notice.
It finally reopened two weeks later, after eight protesters who had blocked the entrance to the building were forcibly removed and arrested by federal officers. They were released the same day. A fence was erected and DHS police were stationed around the clock to protect the building and ensure that it could be accessed during business hours.
Meanwhile, the main part of the camp, with at least 90 tents, remained untouched. Early on, the leftist mayor of Portland, one of the first sanctuary cities in the country, had tweeted an order to Portland police not to disturb the campers.
Occupy ICE PDX quickly spawned dozens of imitators around the country, with Portland’s serving as the model. Social media–especially Twitter and Facebook–and a slew of new websites networked the groups and inspired more participants to join in or to donate supplies to keep the tent cities going.
All of the Occupy groups share three main objectives: no ICE, no borders, and no prisons. Appended to many of their communiques and graphics is a favorite saying ¡Chinga la migra! – Spanish for “F**k the migra.” Migra is the insulting word that illegal aliens and their supporters use to describe U.S. customs and border enforcement officials.
Delving more deeply into OccupyICE’s social media, one finds them supporting “full rights for all immigrants” (“no one is illegal”) and not only shutting ICE down, but seeing to it that its employees are prosecuted. There are constant references to fellow “comrades” and “communes” in their messages and tweets.
The previous Occupy movement of urban camp-ins, which began in September 2011 as Occupy Wall Street in New York, also spread nationwide.
That months-long tent-in introduced the now entrenched meme of the 99 percent vs. the 1 percent, which the occupiers insist control everything.
Socialists and Communists
According to one far left publication sympathetic to this latest Occupy cause:
“All over the United States, groups of socialists, anarchists, communists, and other leftists are camping outside ICE offices to prevent ICE agents and their detainees from entering and exiting the buildings.”
Backers of Occupy ICE Philadelphia include Philly Socialists, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Workers World Party, Socialist Alternative, Montgomery County Socialists, and International Marxist Tendency.
Occupy groups in other cities boast support from a similar assortment of socialist, communist, and Marxist groups. For example, “Red Bloom [which] is a collective of communists,” strongly endorses OccupyNYC. The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (“We ARE Building a Movement for Revolution!”) is another full-throated endorser.
The most prominent, well-organized Occupy ICE supporter is DSA–the Democratic Socialists of America. Founded about four decades ago by socialist academic, author, and atheist Michael Harrington, DSA has moved to the extreme far left fringe in recent years.
DSA member and avowed socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year old former bartender, made national news recently when she came out of nowhere to unseat veteran Rep. Joe Crowley in a New York Democratic primary election. Ocasio-Cortez has made her opposition to ICE a centerpiece of her campaign. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez recently commented that Ocasio-Cortez represents “the future of our party.”
On July 2, DSA tweeted that its membership had topped 40,000 after adding 4,000 new members the previous week, thanks to Ocasio-Cortez’s widely publicized victory and the spread of the No ICE meme.
Last October, Ron Radosh examined DSA in an article charting its “Drift From Democratic Socialism to Stalinist Totalitarianism.” He concluded, “Democratic Socialists of America has proved that it risks being indistinguishable from the old American Communist Party and its Stalinist practices.”
The objectives and demands of Occupy ICE are making their way into the upper reaches of the political mainstream. Several leading Democratic Party politicians, including U.S. Senators and potential presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Kirsten Gillibrand, have all endorsed Occupy ICE’s primary demand that ICE be completely shut down.
A prominent DSA member and supporter of Occupy ICE, Jabari Brisport, is helping to push Occupy ICE’s demands even further to the left. Recently, he tweeted another socialist who said “Let’s make ‘Abolish ICE’ the centrist position and ‘Prosecute ICE the leftist position.” Brisport’s tweet advocating criminal trials for ICE workers has gained over 4,000 retweets and 22,000 likes.
Now that Occupy ICE has succeeded in taking its occupations nationwide, it is promising to escalate its tactics including apparently eschewing non-violence. On July 7, a statement from the “Temporarily Autonomous Zone” (aka the Portland Occupy Ice tent camp) included these comments:
“Generally, our actions have been non-violent. . . Passive actions are often ineffective by themselves and can even impede real social movements as people become complacent with passivity. . . When faced with violent oppression and repression, people have the right to respond with whatever means necessary to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their lands and waters. . . We want to shut down a system, not just a building.”
For its next step, Occupy ICE is promoting a National Day of Action Against ICE on Tuesday, July 17 in cities around the country.
Follow Peter Barry Chowka on Twitter: @pchowka