Councilman pleads guilty in protest case

New York City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, (third from left) pleads guilty to disorderly conduct over the detention of activist Ravi Ragbir (right).
NYC Council / William Alatriste

New York City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct on Wednesday in connection with his arrest at an immigration protest in lower Manhattan over the detention of Trinidadian immigrant rights activist Ravi Ragbir.

Rodriguez was joined at the New York County Courthouse on Centre Street in lower Manhattan by Ragbir, whose detention by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents touched off the Jan. 11 demonstration, as well as by New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, who also was arrested at the protest.

Rodriguez thanked Williams, who represents the 45th Council District in Brooklyn, and Ragbir for their support, vowing to continue fighting for immigrant rights, according to AM New York.

Ragbir and multiple immigrant groups have sued the Trump administration over Ragbir’s detention.

“We will continue to unapologetically resist any attacks on immigrants,” Rodriquez said. “We are the majority, and we will prevail. Thank you to my brothers for standing with me today.”

Eighteen people, including Rodriguez and Williams, were arrested during the chaotic protest that broke out on Jan. 11 after Ragbir’s detainment, AM New York said.

Ragbir, who is the executive director of the faith-based immigrant rights group New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, was taken into ICE custody when he showed up for a routine check-in with the agency at 26 Federal Plaza in lower Manhattan.

As he was taken away in an ambulance, Williams, Rodriguez and other protesters stood in the street in an attempt to stop the vehicle, AM New York said.

It said police began making arrests when the protesters refused to move onto the sidewalk.

In addition to disorderly conduct, Rodriguez was initially charged with obstructing an emergency medical service, reckless endangerment and resisting arrest. Those charges were dropped during his court appearance Wednesday, a spokeswoman from his office said.

Rodriguez said he decided to plead guilty so that he could continue to focus on fighting for immigrant rights, rather than dealing with a trial.

“I want to ensure all my energy is focused on unapologetically fighting for immigrants, lifting their contributions, and keeping families together,” he said in a statement. “A protracted trial process would take away from the urgent work in protecting immigrants that needs our full attention.”

Williams on Wednesday said Ragbir remains in the country partly because of their protest and arrest.

“[Councilman] Rodriguez and I were proud to stand up in protest for Ravi and other immigrants facing immoral deportation,” said Williams, who recently announced his candidacy for New York State lieutenant governor.

“At the time, it was considered by some to be a stunt or an empty gesture, but today, Ravi Ragbir remains in the United States, in part because of those very protests by ourselves and others,” Williams added.

Ragbir, who was convicted of wire fraud in 2001, was released from ICE detention on Jan. 29 after a judge ruled it was “unnecessarily cruel,” according to AM New York.

It said he was granted a stay of deportation in February after his legal defense team successfully argued that he should be allowed to remain in the United States while a lawsuit regarding his Jan. 11 detention is considered in court.

The suit alleges Ragbir was targeted by ICE because of his immigrant activism.

Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez is arrested with several others at the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge follwing Foley Square rally.
Photo by Tequila Minsky, File

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