200 Protest Against Clampdown on Middle Eastern Immigrants

Revolutionary Worker #1131, December 16, 2001, posted at http://rwor.org

The RW received the following correspondence from Detroit.

On November 28, 200 people demonstrated in front of the City Hall in Dearborn, Michigan against the government detention of 1,100 Middle Eastern and South Asian immigrants and the FBI plan to interview 5,000 Middle Eastern men. The crowd of 200 people was multinational and included a significant number of Arab people from the area. This was a very spirited demonstration, with people determined to let our Arab sisters and brothers know we got their back.

The protest was organized by DAWN (Detroit Anti-War Network), and featured a large contingent of youth, including many who are very new to the movement. Protesters included anarchists, revolutionary communists, Pan-Africanists, progressive lawyers, civil-libertarians and other social activists. During the protest, half the street was blocked by TV news trucks, and radio and newspaper reporters. At least three local Arab-American newspapers also covered the protest.

An RW seller talked to a couple of Middle Eastern youth, one of whom had just been released from 16 days of detention. He said, "Yes, there is a lot of anguish in the community, because people feel like they're targeted because of their ethnicity, and of course this is something that puts a lot of stress on people, the humiliation. You feel like you're a suspect just because you're Arab or Muslim. There are many people who've been harassed in many ways." Another youth who had been detained said, "I didn't get to make a phone call for 48 hours, by then they were able to check on me and knew everything about me. But they still kept me for 16 days. That is illegal, they arrested me for nothing!"

The demo followed weeks of growing concern and outrage over the detentions and pending FBI interviews in the Arab community and beyond. Law enforcement officials have been scrambling to address these concerns in various meetings in the Arab community. On November 20, a Justice Department panel, with speakers from the FBI and Civil Rights division, was called in to Dearborn, ostensibly to discuss the "anti-Arab backlash" and how the feds could "help." But the masses wanted to discuss the government's anti-Arab attacks, especially the targeting of 5,000 Middle Eastern and South Asians with so-called "voluntary interviews."

The feds tack was to try to make the interviews seem routine and harmless. One FBI agent said "we do investigations all the time" and "there's historical precedent for this."

An Arab lawyer exposed that no other "investigations" have been accompanied by so much publicity and how this would surely inflame anti-Arab racism. Another Arab activist exposed how the interviews could be used to set people up for detention and deportation by the INS. Meanwhile, the feds were "taking names" of everyone who spoke. One supporter of the RCP got up to speak and said, "My name is Never Again", and proceeded to expose the "historical precedent" from Nazi Germany and Chile for the "interviews" and the "disappearing" of 1,100 immigrants since September 11. After that, people started shouting out their opposition from the audience and one activist started passing out flyers for an upcoming protest against the war while the feds desperately tried to regain control of the meeting.

More actions and activities are planned and we will keep RW readers posted.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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