Brooklyn Council Member Jumaane D. Williams was arrested on Jan. 11 while protesting the detention of Trinidadian community leader Ravi Ragbir.
Ragbir, 53, executive director of the New York-based New Sanctuary Coalition, has lived in the United States for over two decades. He has been by Williams as “a dedicated community educator, spokesperson, and advocate for immigrants.”
Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, was arrested during the protest in lower Manhattan, along with Manhattan Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez and a group of activists.
“Many people were taken away by law enforcement today,” Williams told Caribbean Life after his release. “Protesters like myself were taken in an NYPD [New York Police Department] van. Ravi Ragbir was taken away in an ambulance, by ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency officers]. The protesters taken in, myself among them, were eventually released. Ravi has not been.
“If ICE continues along its current track in this case, he [Ragbir] will be deported,” added Williams, who represents the 45th Council District in Brooklyn. “This is a tragic injustice for him, his family, and the community that he has served and led for over two decades in this country.”
Williams said Ragbir was detained by ICE officials and removed from Jacob K. Javits Federal Building in lower Manhattan after a routine check-in with ICE officials.
The Councilmember said he and some of his Council colleagues had joined New York state Sen. Gustavo Rivera, Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon, Ragbir’s supporters and a group of activists in the protest as the ambulance left the building. Williams said the group he was with “peacefully protested.
“After a brief period, officers began forcefully removing the protesters,” he said. “Several were bodily thrown.”
At that point, Williams said he and Rodriguez were arrested, along with a group of protesters, “and removed from the area in a police van.
“After those arrested had been removed, the remaining group of activists continued to chant in support not only of those who had been taken by the NYPD but Ravi himself,” said Williams, who noted that Ragbir has served on the board of directors and steering committees of national and local non-profit organizations.
“He [Ragbir] has educated other advocates, allies, community organizers, and elected officials on immigration issues, as well as new policies and reform proposals from Congress,” Williams said. “Ravi is a longtime lawful permanent resident, who has lived in the United States for over 25 years. Ravi came to the U.S. from Trinidad in February 1991 on a visitor’s visa and became a lawful permanent resident in 1994.
“His U.S. citizen daughter, Deborah, was born in 1995,” he added. “Ravi is currently married to a U.S. citizen and lives in Brooklyn. His sister and extended family also reside in the United States as citizens and lawful permanent residents. Together, they have all made America their home.
“The detention of Mr. Ragbir, at this time, appears to be part of a larger crackdown by ICE and the Department of Homeland Security on immigration and immigrants living in the United States,” Williams continued.
“Immigration and Customs Enforcement, under a tyrannical Trump Administration, has abused its power to tear lives and families apart,” he said. “their actions are inhumane and illogical. Trump has repeatedly said that he merely seeks to deport those who have committed crimes of extreme violence. That was, and continues to be, a lie.”
Williams said he will continue to work alongside dedicated activists, advocates, and elected officials “to resist the destructive incompetence and malicious bigotry of the Trump administration. “We must defend our fellow human beings from the Trump Administration’s attacks on our city, our state, our nation, and our people, and I vow to continue that fight with renewed vigor and steadfast resolve,” Williams affirmed.
The newly elected Council Speaker, Corey D. Johnson, on Thursday accused NYPD officers and us federal law enforcement agents of acting violently during the protest action.
The protest began at the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building and continued down Broadway as demonstrators tried to block an ambulance that was carrying Ragbir, according to a report in the New York Times.
A lawyer for Ragbir, who has been fighting deportation, said that he had fainted during a meeting with ICE officials after being told that he was to be detained.
Video taken during the protest showed police officers grabbing Councilmember Rodriguez, pulling his suit coat over his head and accusing him of resisting arrest, even though he was seated on the pavement, the Times said. At another point, he was held firmly and surrounded by officers, the paper said.