You Can’t Deport a Movement rally at Foley Square

At the “You Can’t Deport a Movement” rally, Public Advocate Letitia James emphasizes the continuous need to push back, and push forward and keep up the struggle and the pressure.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

The tone, Saturday morning, Feb. 11, began a bit lighter than might have been as immigration rights activists filled Foley Square in the shadow of Manhattan courts at the “You Can’t Deport a Movement” rally in support of Ravi Ragbir.

Ragbir was to have reported for deportation at ICE that morning, but in a very welcome temporary reprieve, the government delayed this action while letting the courts decide if his rights have been violated — his lawyers filed a First Amendment lawsuit in the Southern District of NY court in Manhattan on Thursday.

Ragbir is now to report to ICE on March 15.

The rally went on as scheduled with a program of advocates, activists, clergy, electeds, and the lead from his legal team.

Speakers told of the pain of these deportations, the need to keep pushing back, and forward, of fighting to keep DACA—the Dreamers, and how ICE is a rogue / Gestapo agency and the movement has to heat up. Linda Sarsour marked how this kind of support is needed everywhere in the country. A new chant was taught: “The movement united can never be deported.”

Council Member Jumaane Williams, arrested one month before when Ragbir was detained and sent to detention in Miami, noted that without the stay, “We were going to make history today! It was going to be the showdown of showdowns…surrounding Federal Plaza.”

Congress, City Council members, and other electeds, all stalwart supporters of Ragbir, spoke in support of immigrant rights and on his behalf.

To loud cheers and applause, State Senator Gustavo Rivera (Bronx Dist. 33) said, “We are here to celebrate this immigrants rights leader being with us today.”

He continued, “Let’s all be clear, there is an attack on the immigration rights movement,” and he referred to Jean Montreveil, deported to Haiti on Jan. 16. He emphasized that it is up to citizens and those with privilege to stand up for the others.

New Sanctuary lawyer Steve Sacco stressed how this was a non-violent movement while ICE is violent.

Following a number of speakers and to a roaring crowd, Ragbir’s wife Amy Gottleib told how terrified she was, just two days before, thinking that “Ravi would walk into that building and not walk out.”

“March 15, we have to fight again,” she said. “We are not going to stop for Ravi or everybody else who has to deal with this.” She underscored that there are thousands living this crisis every day.

After Gottleib, and clearly moved by the crowd affectionately chanting: “Ravi, Ravi,” Ragbir spoke.

“Thirty days since Jan. 11,” he began. “What have we done in 30 days? We’ve had a movement build, a movement grow, a movement blossom and explode. We’re changing the courts; we’re changing the streets.”

He recounted how they wanted to make him invisible, like they did with Jean Montrevil, now in Haiti, “Even though he has a court case in two months.”

Ravi challenged ICE. What kind of national security problem is — and he listed a few recent deportees — the doctor, the restaurant worker, the father taking his children to school?

He suggested that “we”, the movement, is a threat in challenging what is happening with an immoral law.

Ragbir wrapped up his talk leading an energetic chant: “ICE has got to go! ICE has got to go!”

Those at the rally crossed Lafayette St. and began a Jericho Walk, silently circling three times the Federal Building, passing patrolling DHS (Homeland Security) police.

Twelve groups sponsored the “You Can’t Deport a Movement” rally.

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