Sixteen people who were arrested after demonstrating outside a Miramar Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility Wednesday have been released from the Broward County Jail in Fort Lauderdale. One other person was transferred to the jail in Pompano Beach and is expected to be released soon.
The 17 protesters were charged with unlawful assembly, a second-degree misdemeanor, and obstructing a roadway, a first-degree misdemeanor charge, after gathering in the intersection of SW 29th St. and 145th Ave. to call on Mayor Wayne Messam to shut down the ICE office.
Protesters called for the abolition of ICE and demanded an end to the separation of families due to U.S. immigration policies.
“Even though we were uncomfortable and we went through a lot in that jail, it's nothing compared to what these families ... go through,” said Paula Muñoz, who was released from jail shortly after 11 a.m. Thursday.
The arrests came days after several other Broward County protesters had been arrested on trespassing charges for demonstrating outside of the ICE detention facility on Powerline Rd., Monday, in Pompano Beach. They were also released.
The Miramar Police Department said the arrests were not a political decision.
“We were very patient,” Tonia Rues, a spokesperson for the department, said. “They didn’t have a permit. They could have protested on the sidewalks, or swails.”
By the time five o’clock traffic came around on Wednesday, Rues said, the department couldn’t let the intersection continue to be blocked, because people were trying to get home from work.
“They were very forwarned, very forewarned,” Rues said. “But there were no injuries.”
United We Dream posted $100 bail for each of the protesters at 4 a.m. Thursday, and much of the group waited outside for their friends to be released. As protesters were released in pairs of two, the group joined in singing and chanting on the steps of the county jail.
In February, the Miramar city commission passed a resolution reflecting its dissapointment with the treatment of people at the ICE facility. The resolution asked ICE officials to add parking, restrooms, shade, and waiting areas.
Eli Cuna, the National Field Director for United We Dream, which led the Miramar protests, said she believed officers used excessive force.
“There were just 17 folks that were blocking the space, compared to 80 cars of the police,” said Cuna, who leads the group's Abolish ICE campaign. "I think that gives you the big picture of how this country is looking at us [immigrants] right now."
A growing number of Democratic leaders have joined calls to abolish ICE. This week the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution declaring approval for ICE's efforts in the narcotics and human trafficking trades.
The Miramar protests were part of nationwide mobilization effort outside of ICE offices, taking place from July 15-24.
Muñoz said she would risk arrest again to protect immigrants.
"I'm going to keep doing whatever is needed ... I'm willing to do what it takes for my immigrant community," she said.