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'Choose People Over Profits': Never Again Action Fights ICE Detention Center in Rhode Island

"We once again call on the members of the board of directors to fulfill their obligation to the communities they represent by either voting against this agreement or resigning from their positions immediately."

Leah Shorb chants protests at Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls, Rhode Island on Friday.

Activists with Never Again Action Rhode Island plan to take their second action in four days Monday evening to stop a local prison from locking in its agreement with ICE.

Demonstrators from Never Again and the Alliance to Mobilize Our Resistance (AMOR) on Friday shut down a meeting of the Central Falls Detention Facility Corporation board of directors, chanting and singing in protest. The groups plan to do the same thing on Monday. 

It's the latest front in a struggle between activists and President Donald Trump's war on immigrants that's roiled the city of Central Falls in the small New England state through the summer. 

Protesters stopped the Central Falls Detention Facility Corporation board from discussing a forbearance agreement between the Wyatt Detention Facility and UMB Bank that, according to The Boston Globe, "would cut out city oversight and lock in a contract for ICE detainees."

"We the people of Rhode Island will not allow UMB Bank to use our state to make profits by dehumanizing our immigrant brothers and sisters," Never Again organizer Fil Eden said Friday. "Never again means never again—for everyone."

As Common Dreams reported Monday, profiteering from ICE detention is a big business. Decades of billion-dollar contracts have created what researchers at the Transnational Institute called in a report the "border-industrial complex." The political and economic power of the border security industry makes protests like Friday's an uphill battle. 

The groups declared their intention to stop discussion again on Monday.

"On Friday, we made our voices heard loud and clear: we will not stand idly by and allow unaccountable, out-of-state bondholders to profit off of the inhumane treatment of detainees in Rhode Island," the groups said. "We also promised that we'd be back."

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"We once again call on the members of the board of directors to fulfill their obligation to the communities they represent by either voting against this agreement or resigning from their positions immediately," they added.

The protest came after the board canceled a meeting scheduled for September 9 and rescheduled it for Friday, a move that made the timing fall on Shabbat and was decried by members of Never Again as specifically targeted at the Jewish group.

"You canceled your last meeting," proters declared Friday. "We are canceling this meeting. Shabbat Shalom.”

The publicly owned, privately operated Wyatt facility is deeply in debt despite an expectation from decades ago that it would be an economic boon to Central Falls, a city of 20,000 to the north of Pawtucket and Providence. UMB has around $130 million invested in Wyatt. 

The proposed forbearance agreement would require the 770-bed facility to house at least 625 ICE detainees a day, a mandatory quota that critics warn would effectively convert the facility officially into an ICE prison, critics warn. Under the agreement, the only involvement the city would be allowed to have with Wyatt would be appointing board members to to the Central Falls Detention Facility Corporation. 

Wyatt's contract with ICE has been a flashpoint for the Never Again movement. In August, a senior corrections officer at the facility drove his truck into a crowd of protesters outside the prison, injuring five.

Never Again and AMOR, in their statement, expressed their hope that the board could vote against the forbearance.

"It's not too late to choose people over profits," the groups said, "and say 'no' to ICE."

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