Hundreds of labor and immigrant advocates marched through east midtown early Monday in a demonstration against corporations which they say are profiting from President Trump's agenda—one of a series of May Day protests scheduled to take place throughout the city (and beyond) on Monday.
The specific targets of this action, according to organizers from Make The Road New York, are the Wall Street banks that help finance private prisons and immigrant detention centers. To that end, organizers said twelve protesters were arrested for peaceful civil disobedience while blocking the entrances outside of JPMorgan Chase, which is one of the companies named in Make The Road's and the Center for Popular Democracy's Backers Of Hate campaign.
"I think people feel it's a moment of moral crisis for our country and these companies are complicit and that there is an urgency to take action that includes disruption," Daniel Altschuler, the director of civic engagement and research at Make The Road, told Gothamist.
While many in the largely immigrant crowd were careful not to risk a potential run-in with ICE by getting arrested, they still participated in the protest. Myriam Fernandez, from Brooklyn, said she was compelled to bring her two nieces, ages 13 and 15, to see the demonstration.
"It is very important to be here because we have to raise our voices—to raise a voice for our family," Fernandez said. "They're here but they don't know what's happening to our families right now."
— Scott Heins (@scottheins) May 1, 2017
Prior to the march, a couple hundred demonstrators rallied at Bryant Park, chanting and beating drums as speakers shared personal stories from the steps of the New York Public Library. One especially rousing speech came courtesy of Jonathan Cortez Padilla, an immigrant who fled Honduras last year after facing persecution for being gay.
Speaking in Spanish with the help of an English translator, Padilla described his time in an Arizona detention center owned by private prison giant CoreCivic (formerly the Corrections Corporation of America), which relies on debt financing from banks such as JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo. Padilla related the experience of being tossed in a freezing cell with no mattress or blanket, and how he was later made to scrub floors for days on end just to afford the $1.50 charge to call his mother in New York. In the six weeks he spent in detention, Padilla says he lost 11 pounds.
— Michael Kink (@mkink) May 1, 2017
"My story is not an isolated one," Padilla said, to loud approval. "Many persons detained in these ice boxes are asylum seekers fleeing life threatening abuse and violence. Today, we take our fight to JPMorgan Chase, one of the many financiers of CoreCivic and other immigrant detention companies."
Following the speeches, protesters marched to the JPMorgan's Park Avenue office, where they stood at the entrance to the bank's headquarters behind a large banner reading: "Their profits, our pain." After blocking the entrance to the building, 12 of those protesters were arrested, according to Altschuler.
— Michael Herzenberg (@MHerzenberg) May 1, 2017
A spokesman for the NYPD could not confirm the arrests or offer any information about the charges.
From JPMorgan Chase, protesters then moved on to the offices of Wells Fargo, at Lexington Avenue and 42nd Street. No arrests were made at this location, according to Altschuler.
Following the march, several of those arrested released statements highlighting the success of the action. "Immigrants and people of integrity will not stand idly by as major American corporations position themselves to profit from an administration that attacks immigrants and working people," said Deborah Axt, co-executive director of Make The Road New York and one of the twelve people detained outside of JPMorgan Chase.
"To those companies who choose to stand on the wrong side of history—especially those seeking to profit from Trump's anti-immigrant crusade—we say: you are on notice, and our communities will hold you accountable."
With Scott Heins.