Williams pleads not guilty to obstruction charges

Council Member Jumaane Williams, center, and immigrant rights activist Ravi Ragbir, right, speak with reporters after court appearance..
Kevin Fagan

Brooklyn Council Member Jumaane D. Williams on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to charges of obstructing an emergency medical vehicle stemming from the Jan. 11 protest of the detention and imminent deportation of Trinidadian immigrant rights activist Ravi Ragbir.

Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, who represents the 45th Council District in Brooklyn, appeared before a judge on Tuesday, with 16 other protesters who were arrested with him for their roles in the protest.

Williams’s City Council colleague Ydanis Rodriguez, who was also arrested during the protest, had appeared in court appearance late February and pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, a violation rather than a crime.

The other protesters accepted an ACD (Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal) in the courtroom on Tuesday, while informing the court of their intention to continue to protest actions they find unjust, Williams told Caribbean Life.

He said he pleaded not guilty, stating that his actions were “in opposition to the immoral deportation of Ravi Ragbir.”

The arrest and detention of Ragbir was later ruled unconstitutional by US District Judge Kathleen Forrest, who compared the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) actions to “regimes we revile as unjust; regimes where those who have long lived in a country may be taken without notice and sent away.”

Williams, who is campaigning for New York State Lt. Governor, said Ravi’s removal is currently set for May 11, “pending adjudications in multiple items of federal litigation pertaining to his removal order and ICE’s retaliation against him.”

After Tuesday’s court appearance, Williams joined fellow protesters and Ragbir in speaking out against the importance not only elevating Ravi’s case and the circumstances surrounding it but also against the cases of immigrants across the United States, who they said, “have not received the same level national attention.”

Williams said he intends to continue to raise issues of immigrant rights, deportation, ICE abuses, and sanctuary cities throughout the legal process. He is scheduled for another court appearance on May 8.

“I am proud today to stand with Ravi Ragbir and all immigrants under threat, as I stood with them in protest on Jan. 11,” Williams said. “Today, we as advocates were joined by our friend, Ravi Ragbir. If we had not protested his immoral detention and deportation, this would not have been possible.

“Those of us with a public position and voice have a moral obligation to defend communities who are disadvantaged and attacked,” he added. “My legal process will take place out in the open, a right that is often denied to immigrants who face immoral deportations.

“ICE operates in darkness,” Williams continued. “It is my hope that my case will shed light on ICE practices, the plight of immigrants who are being targeted by the Trump administration, and how we can be a sanctuary city and state. As voices across the city have risen to defend and support Ravi, we should not criminalize actions of protest taken in his defense.”

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 ICE at 26 Federal Plaza in lower Manhattan.

Police began making arrests when protesters declined to move onto the sidewalk.

Ragbir, who was convicted of wire fraud in 2001, was released from ICE detention on Jan. 29 after Judge Forrest ruled it was “unnecessarily cruel.”

Ragbir was granted a stay of deportation in February after his legal defense team successfully argued that he should be allowed to remain in the US while a lawsuit regarding his detention is considered in court.

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

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