On Saturday members of the Occupy Birmingham movement branched out from their camp and marched with other Alabama civic and religious organizations to the Etowah County Detention Center to protest the state’s harsh immigration law, which has been challenged in court as racial profiling, among other things.
Occupy Birmingham says it has a long list of objections to the law, H.B. 56, but it names the jailing of people for profit as one of the factors that ties the Occupy movement with immigrant rights.
"Opposition to the undue influence of money and corporate interests on the country’s politics has been one of the driving forces behind the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York as well as the hundreds of solidarity movements across the country," read a statement by Occupy Birmingham. "The same is true of the Occupy Birmingham movement, which plans to call attention to the link between corporate influence over state politics and Alabama’s new, repressive immigration policy, H.B. 56."
The local newspaper Gadsden Times estimated a crowd between 150 and 200 people marched for about an hour on Forrest Avenue in the block near the courthouse and Etowah County Detention Center. "Only a small number of protesters appeared to be Latino," reported the Gadsden Times’ Lisa Rogers.
Local Sheriff Todd Entrekin said there are 850 people housed at the jail, including about 350 federal detainees who are believed to be there on immigration holds.
Protestors shouted chants like "No papers. No fears. Immigrants are marching here," with hopes that detainees inside would hear them.
Shortly after signs with phrases like "I Miss My Children" and "Detention = Injustice" could be seen through a window.
Inmates at the Etowah County Detention Center crowd to the windows to watch as protesters march in front of the detention center to protest Alabama House Bill 56. (AP Photo/The Gadsden Times, Sarah Dudik)
Image posted on occupybirmingham.org’s website.
The Gadsden Police Department, the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office and several divisions within those departments worked Saturday to have a strong police presence. Protesters were in Gadsden for about five hours and no problems occurred, Sheriff Todd Entrekin told the Gadsden.
(Special thanks to reader Ingrid C. for letting us know about this story.)