BRATTLEBORO — Local residents demanded the immediate release of three detained immigration-rights activists on Tuesday.
"We're here today to show our support of the Migrant Justice leaders and community members who have been arrested by ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] within the last week," protest coordinator Alex Fischer, of the Root Social Justice Center, said into a megaphone at downtown Brattleboro's Pliny Park. "We're all here to say free Kike, free Zully, free Alex and not one more."
The three immigrant rights activists — Enrique "Kike" Balcazar, Zully Palacios and Cesar Alex Carrillo — were recently arrested in Burlington. Balcazar is a member of Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan's immigration task force.
News of the arrests made by ICE prompted similar protests throughout the state. At the same time as the Brattleboro protest, another was being held in Montpelier. On Saturday, there had been one in Burlington.
The protest in Brattleboro was happening on "land that is home to the Abenaki people," Fischer told attendees.
"As we gather today to stand up against the targeting of human-rights leaders in the migrant community, we must also acknowledge the history of targeting Indigenous Peoples in this region," Fischer said. "I'd also like to acknowledge our local migrant community, those who are here with us today and those who cannot be here with us."
Fischer thanked Gov. Phil Scott, Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, the Vermont State Police and Brattleboro Police Department "in advance" for their noncooperation with ICE and for working to keep communities together.
More than 100 people were at the protest. Petitions were being signed in support of Migrant Justice. People carried signs featuring phrases such as "Can't Trump Human Rights," "Keep Families Together" and "No To Deportation." Drivers honked their horns as they traveled Main Street.
Standing with the sign that was used to promote Donald Trump and Mike Pence on lawns during the presidential campaign, a man who did not wish to share his name said he was there because he was proud of his country and president.
"I believe that all sides of these issues should be represented," he told the Reformer. "So I'm here to promote discourse and resolution. I'm not here to aggravate. I'm here to work together with people to solve these issues because without discourse, a house divided will fall. I'm not getting emotionally attached here. I'm here to talk about the issues."
One participant said political issues were extremely emotional, because they had to do with things like human rights and the rights of women's bodies.
Vermont has approximately 1,500 migrant farm workers, according to Migrant Justice organizer Abel Luna. The group began in 2009 after the death of a young migrant in an accident on a dairy farm.
"Since then, we've been organizing with the community to define and to defend human rights," Luna said in Burlington, as Fischer played the recording in Brattleboro.
Also in the recording, Migrant Justice organizer Victor Diaz said he was amazed to see the support of activists in Burlington confronting "this storm" that the Trump Administration "has brought down upon us."
Diaz, who had been detained by ICE last year, said Balcazar and Palacios "stood up for me" and "they mobilized the community to fight for my freedom."
"And I was freed," Diaz said. "And so now I'm here to fight for the freedom of Kike, of Zully, of Alex, because they deserve their freedom, too, so they can be back with their community, back committed to the fight for dignity."
Fischer said the three activists were being detained in Dover, N.H.
Reach staff writer Chris Mays at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or @CMaysBR.