Walking through the middle of downtown streets and blocking traffic at intersections, 40 protesters—including several local leaders wearing "Immigration Reform Now!" shirts—are trying to be arrested. Hundreds of supporters are rallying around them:
Earlier today, the Washington Immigration Reform Coalition was teaching the group the best techniques for being arrested. At noon, the protesters—including Estela Ortega, Executive Director of El Centro de la Raza, King County Council Member Larry Gossett, Hilary Stern, Executive Director of Casa Latina, and Jeff Johnson, representing the Washington State Labor Council—began their civil disobedience.
They formed a human chain in front of the office building elevators to the located at 1000 2nd Avenue, blocking access to all offices within the building, including blocking access to office for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which deports undocumented workers.
Lorena Gonzalez, Vice President of One America, which organized the rally, says it's part of an orchestrated national movement that kicked off this week. Their goal is to draw attention to president Barack Obama's failed campaign promise to introduce comprehensive immigration reform within his first year in office.
"He broke his promise," says Gonzalez. "What's worse, we're seeing 1,000 deportations a day under the Obama Administration. That's much higher than what we were seeing under the Bush Administration."
More after the jump.
Gonzalez explains that with Arizona's new racial profiling law—which gives law enforcement the authority to stop anyone and request to see their immigration papers and other states considering similar legislation—creates a pressing need for federal immigration reform. "We're fighting the clock," she says. "The only way to prevent escalating racial profiling on a state level is to get comprehensive federal reform now. This isn't just something we're demanding, it's something that Obama's already promised to us."
Behind Gonzalez, hundreds of protesters blocked easy access to the building on 2nd Avenue, holding homemade signs in Spanish and English chanted, "Yes We Can!" and, "Immigration Reform Now!"
Seattle City Council Member Nick Licata attended the rally as a supporter. Earlier this week, the city council passed an Arizona boycott resolution that called for comprehensive immigration reform while denouncing the AZ law. City council members have been inundated by angry emails and phone calls regarding the amendment. "We've been getting a lot of heat for it," confirms Licata, "my theory is there's a national right wing campaign to blast local electeds with negative feedback where resolutions like ours are passed." That's why rallies like this are so necessary, says Licata. With anti-immigration advocates so well organized, "the only way we're going to see change in this country is to lay on the pressure."
Gonzalez says pressure is mounting: On Monday, a group of students were arrested for civil disobedience in Arizona for blocking the doorway to John McCain's office. On Tuesday, city council members in New York were arrested.
"As far as we know, this is the largest display of civil disobedience to date," says One America spokesman Charlie McAteer. "But it won't be the largest and it won't be the last."