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“Outraged and Unafraid” Undocumented Youth and Allies Shut Down Trump Tower

Jacob Plitman
September 5, 2017

by Jacob Plitman

THIS AFTERNOON, 9 undocumented youth activists and around a dozen allies were arrested in front of Trump Tower. The action, planned by Movimiento Cosecha (Harvest Movement), was in protest of the planned cancellation of DACA permits by the Trump administration.

[caption id="attachment_63179" align="alignright" width="300"] Juan Pablo Orjuela[/caption]

The action was planned by Cosecha, a decentralized organization of immigrants and allies across the United States. According to "Cosechero" Juan Pablo Orjeula, there are Cosecha communities in Boston, NYC, New Jersey, Minneapolis, Oakland CA and San Antonio, and claimed that more are growing.

While many of the activists were local, some traveled long distances to demonstrate in front of Trump Tower. I spoke with Cosecha organizer Jose Santiago, who had come to NYC from his home in Homestead, Florida, before the action began. He said, "I'm not afraid, I'm outraged. Hundreds of thousands of us could lose our jobs (because of DACA enabled work permits). We are central to this country, all immigrants are. So we are here to protect our families."

[caption id="attachment_63183" align="alignleft" width="293"] Organizer Jose Santiago[/caption]

The confirmaton of the impending decision to cancel DACA came as the action was just beginning. An emotional announcement was made by the organizers to a completely silent crowd. While tearful, the activists continued towards Trump tower, and once close sprinted diagonally across the street. The line of undocumented activists linked arms and began to sing as police surrounded them. While choreographed, there is magnified risk of undocumented people under arrest, and even mundane activities like driving can be dangerous.

Quickly, the activists had their hands ziptied and were lead into the back of a waiting police truck. An hour or so later, a dozen allies followed suit, arrested just a block North of the initial action. All but 2 of the undocumented activists are free, while the allies are still being processed.

BROADLY, COSECHA pursues the same goal as United We Dream and other establishment organizations: freedom and equality for the 11 million undocumented people in the US. However, rather than take a legislative or traditionally "political" approach, Cosecha focuses on disruptive tactics. Several of the speakers at the pre-action rally cited the need to "get up and show America our power," and not to "wait around for people to make laws for us." Many organizers talked of a coming massive general strike as the key tactic in their fight for dignity (the URL of Cosecha's website, lahuelga.com, translates to "the strike").

Cosecha has a lot of growing to do before it is capable of something akin to a general strike. But the events today certainly demonstrated a commitment on the part of the group to disruption, even in the face of fear and the demoralizing attack on DACA. And especially if DACA is in fact completely rescinded, what other choices are left for the 11 million undocumented people in our country?

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Jacob Plitman is an Associate Editor of Jewish Currents. He tweets @jacobplitman.

Jacob Plitman was the publisher of Jewish Currents from 2017 – 2022, during which time he stewarded the relaunch of the magazine.