By Bruce Henderson & Steve Harrsion
Angry and scared over the Trump administration’s push to deport undocumented immigrants, about 200 protesters shouted down Charlotte City Council at its Monday night meeting with chants of “No more ICE!” and “Do something!”
The protest started at uptown’s Marshall Park. Activists then marched through uptown and filled the council chambers, where they demanded the city’s elected officials “stand up” to the Trump administration. Some cursed at city officials.
One person was escorted from the building by police. Another asked council members, “What would you do in the Holocaust?”
The rage was similar to what was seen after the September shooting of Keith Scott. Council members left the dais in an attempt to quiet the crowd. They returned a few minutes later and continued the regular portion of their meeting, shouting at each other to be heard as they took votes on items such as a transportation plan.
Council members decided to allow more people to speak, but they had adjourned the meeting. So officials moved into the lobby of the Government Center, where they met in small groups with immigrants and activists.
“My family is undocumented, and I was undocumented for a while,” said Daisy Bejarano, who came to the U.S. from Colombia. “(As a student teacher) I work with students who feel like they could come home and lose their parents.”
Earlier Monday, the group marched behind a white banner: “ICE Out of Charlotte / Mayor Roberts Step Up.” Marchers stayed on the sidewalk beside Third Street and appeared to move without incident as they chanted “No more ICE!”
The immigrant-rights group Comunidad Colectiva, which organized the march, planned to ask city officials to:
▪ Fight a North Carolina statute, known as House Bill 318, that prohibits local governments from restricting law enforcement’s cooperation with federal immigration officials, and the federal 287(g) program in which local police collaborate with immigration agencies.
▪ Require Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police to “use discretion” in dealing with undocumented immigrants.
▪ Provide money for legal services for immigrants facing deportation.
“We’re trying to show City Council that (immigrant arrests) is an ongoing issue going on throughout the community and we need a stronger presence from City Council,” said Mayra Arteaga of Comunidad Colectiva. “This is going down Central Avenue, on Eastway; somebody got picked up today at 3 o’clock. This is really happening in Charlotte, a city made by immigrants.”
Two years ago, City Council approved a civil rights resolution that stated Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police would not inquire about people’s immigration status. That led some people to say Charlotte was a “sanctuary city.”
In response, state legislators passed a law that prohibited cities from adopting ordinances that would limit law enforcement’s ability to work with the federal government in matters related to immigration. The city changed its policies in response to the state law.
“We hear you, we see you,” Mayor Jennifer Roberts told the group. “We see your fear. We know that federal directives have brought fear to our community. I encourage you to raise your voices to federal officials.”
In the lobby of the Government Center, Roberts stood in the middle of a group of protesters, who asked her to “stand up” to the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s office, which runs the 287(g) program. Roberts said she would “have conversations” with the Sheriff’s Office and was immediately booed by activists.
Roberts told them that the state has threatened to take millions of dollars of funding from the city if it opposes programs like 287(g).