Video of neighbors protesting as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents investigate a child sex trafficking ring in their neighborhood has resurfaced, as politicians and activists call for the agency to be abolished.
A local CBS news station reported on the incident, which took place in West Oakland, California, last year. ICE began conducting the raid in the morning, waking up neighbors who saw ICE and Department of Homeland Security vehicles on the street.
Assuming the agents were arresting illegal immigrants, people began protesting outside of the house.
Neighbor Hadar Cohen woke up to her roommate crying, saying she didn’t know what to do. The two of them and other housemates went outside to find agents on their street. Cohen, who was holding a “No person is illegal” sign, said that agents weren’t telling the neighbors what was going on.
“It’s been really tough because we have no idea what’s going on in there, and we that there’s a lot of injustices that have been happening,” Cohen said. “We care for our neighbors, and we care for immigration rights.”
The raid was part of an ongoing criminal investigation of a child sex trafficking in Oakland. Investigators were executing a federal search warrant, a fact which the Oakland Police Department later confirmed.
Agents were seen taking two individuals to their cars; both had blankets covering their faces to conceal their identities.
Protestors wrote in chalk on the ground “We love our neighbors” and “Oakland PD is a disgrace,” as the agents and police officers served the search warrant.
Numerous Democratic politicians have called to abolish ICE. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who upset 10-term representative Joe Crowley in the NY-14 Democratic primary, campaigned on abolishing the agency.
Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren agreed with the sentiment, alongside numerous Democratic representatives. Gillibrand joined immigration protestors at the Hart Senate building, holding a sign that read “End detention now.” Almost 600 of the protestors were later arrested for unlawfully demonstrating.
Warren posted on Facebook, writing, “The President’s deeply immoral actions have made it obvious that we need to rebuild our immigration system from top to bottom, starting by replacing ICE with something that reflects our values.”
Representatives from the Los Angeles Rapid Response Network joined the Oakland protesters. According to their website, they are a “a network of volunteer lawyers and community organizers who stand ready to respond to immigration raids and increased enforcement affecting Los Angeles County and beyond.”
The network told local news that they were trying to reach the people in the house and inform them of their rights.
The Oakland Police Department repeatedly confirmed that this was not an immigration raid, rather they were investigating child sex-trafficking in that house.
Despite this information, locals maintained that ICE and its actions were immoral. “ICE is not welcome in this country. H.S. is not welcome,” said neighbor Adley Penner. “I don’t support what they do. I think it is a blasphemy.”
Oakland has been a sanctuary city since 1986 and as a result, refuses to cooperate with ICE or DHS immigration raids. After reports that ICE was planning on conducting a series of raids, the city council voted unanimously to block city agencies from working with the department.
UPDATE: Since the raid, members of the Oakland City Council have disputed whether the raid was actually a part of a criminal investigation. ICE has only pressed a civil immigration charge, not a sex trafficking charge, although it asserted that the investigation was ongoing and could result in later arrests. This article has been changed slightly to clarify that the child sex ring charges have been found to be allegations so far, although that is how Oakland PD initially described the reason for serving the warrant.