NEW JERSEY, February 22 — Sixty people marched twelve miles today to protest against the racist expansion of detention centers in Northern New Jersey. We were young and old, black, white, and Latino, representing many countries. We marched to three detention centers and three branches of the Wells Fargo bank, which invests in the federally funded companies that profit from the workers they imprison.
The protest was organized by First Friends and the Interfaith Refugee Action Team at Elizabeth (IRATE), an umbrella group that sponsors legal aid, social services and volunteer visits to detainees. Some of us were critical of the march’s vague demands, such as “justice” and “freedom.” We remarked that the sort of justice that has people paying up to $12,000 to release their loved ones into a system of unemployment is really an extension of imprisonment.
And we argued that workers are free under capitalism only to have our children and resources used to wage war for the bosses’ profits.
After beginning the march at Liberty Island, we visited a Catholic church, an Islamic school and a Jewish synagogue in Jersey City. We stopped for a while at the new, 420-bed Delaney Detention Center, one of several in this area. (The Essex County Jail is making room for up to 800 detainees. Hudson County in Kearny is up to 800 beds, Bergen County to 1,500, and Elizabeth to 320). The Delaney facility is in the middle of a toxic waste area where the pollution has a strong odor.
IRATE has a mailing list of 4,000, which they used to draw more than a hundred volunteers, social workers, attorneys and former detainees to a closing vigil in Elizabeth. The more progressive chants included, “No ganáncias, no cárceles” (No profits, no jails) and “Comunidades unidas, no serán vencidas” (Communities united will never be defeated). A PLP member explained that the entire capitalist system is organized around profits for a small ruling class, and that our “communities united” consist only of workers, not the rich who exploit us. At the soup supper later, the comrade distributed CHALLENGE to everyone there while pointing out the necessity of an international party.
There was tremendous enthusiasm and energy among these interns, low-paid social workers, and over-worked attorneys. One group of twenty Mother Seton High School students had participated in this march for several years. A young woman had just been accepted to law school, where she plans to focus on immigration law. These people cheered each other on despite the sad news about one woman’s husband who’d been deported to Lebanon that morning after two months in solitary confinement with insufficient medicine for his chronic illness. His case is one of countless stories of how immigrants are terrorized in the U.S. It’s also a reminder that the capitalist system cannot be reformed and must be destroyed.