Protesters in Hendersonville, North Carolina, crashed a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement picnic following a week of immigration raids that collected at least 25 people from Henderson and Buncombe counties who were living in the U.S. illegally.
About 60 protesters and a brass band interrupted about 30 ICE agents and local law enforcement as they ate lunch in a public picnic shelter at Jackson Park on Friday, April 20, according to several news reports.
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In Facebook Live videos, protesters can be heard shouting, “Stop deportations!” and “Our friends and neighbors are under attack. What do we do? Stand up, fight back!” as they surrounded the shelter.
Federal agents had to shout over the picnic tables to drown out the the music and protesters, the Asheville Citizen Times reported.
About 60 protesters including a brass band disrupted a picnic with ICE and Homeland Security agents as well as local law enforcement at Jackson Park in Hendersonville. pic.twitter.com/1Jz6ScLHVl
— Matt Burkhartt (@MattBurkhartt) April 20, 2018
Bruno Hinojosa, co-director of Compañeros Inmigrantes de las Montañas en Acción (Companions of Mountain Migrants in Action), organized the protest. He said he believed the picnic was a celebration of the recent immigration raids in Western North Carolina, according to local news reports.
“We’re just here to see what this get-together is about,” Hinojosa said to Blue Ridge Now. “We want to express our grieving for what has occurred over the past couple of days.”
“It’s not right,” he said. “How can you have a celebration after families have been separated, after the community has been under fear. To me that’s what it is. It’s shameful that they’re having some sort of celebration after what happened over the weekend.”
From 2016-17, a change in ICE policy led to an increase in ICE arrests of undocumented but “non-criminal aliens.” Neil Nakahodo
The picnic, however, was an annual event for ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations Division, scheduled before recent detention and deportation raids in Western North Carolina, ICE spokesman Bryan Cox told local media.
“Those individuals who were there today were of that division, they had no role in the immigration enforcement actions that took place last week, that’s a separate division of ICE,” Cox said to Blue Ridge Now.
“So the claims that this had any connections to that or that these are the same individuals is not correct.”
Agents from ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations Division were in town for a meeting with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville, Blue Ridge Now reported.
In the Triangle, up to 25 people were detained last week by ICE agents.
Since January 2017, anyone who is living illegally in the United States has been a priority for deportation, not just those with a criminal history.
ICE arrests up to 25 people in immigration raids across Triangle