Queer and trans activists took to the streets of Santa Ana earlier this morning demanding the release of transgender immigrant detainees. They effectively shut down the intersection of Civic Center Drive and Flower Street by having activists chained to each other while others walked around them, chanting slogans. It was a a lot of fun until killjoy SanTana police dressed in riot gear declared an unlawful assembly.
"I want our brothers and sisters to be released from detention centers that are being unnecessarily held just to fill up a bed quota," Paolo Jarariveros told the Weekly while he was chained in the middle of the street. The 33-year-old Peruvian from Pasadena is going through the asylum process but had been detained more than a year ago by immigration authorities prior to that.
"In detention I was able to see how people were treated, even more so for trans brothers and sisters," Jarariveros adds."That's what drove me to be in this demonstration."
Several organizations called for this morning's civil disobedience rally including Familia:Trans Queer Liberation Movement, the #Not1More Campaign and GetEQUAL. Formerly detained trans leaders Karolina Lopez and Nicoll Hernandez-Polanco also joined in the mix. People chanted "No justice, no peace, no transphobic police!" while transgender and gay rainbow flags waved and confetti cannons boomed. (note to protest organizers: trans and queer activists do it better!)
Jorge Gutierrez, wearing an orange feather boa around his neck, brought the protest message home. "We're hearing stories of trans women in the Santa Ana facility, in the pod, who have been there more than five years fighting their asylum cases having no legal representation," the director of Familia:Trans Queer Liberation Movement said. His group says that letters and visits with trans detainees tell of horrible experiences involving solitary confinement, disrespected pronouns and overall dehumanization. "Right now, there are more than 25 trans women detained behind us. These women need to be out now."
Soon after, riot police moved in to form skirmish lines along the intersection. An order to disperse replayed in both English and Spanish. Activists not planning to get arrested huddled to a street corner cheering on Jarariveros, Mar Martinez, Jiselle Onell, and Jorge Hernandez as they got hauled off by police one at a time. The activists then marched to Santa Ana police headquarters where they await the release of their fellow activists.
— CA Immigrant Youth (@CIYJA) May 28, 2015
The civil disobedience action took place exactly a year after five LGBTQ activists got arrested in a protest outside Santa Ana city jail. "Not much has changed. We know that people continue to get deported so that's why we're still on the streets," Gutierrez says. "But this time around, it's queer and trans folks at the forefront demanding for our LGBTQ community to be released now!"
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @gsanroman2