Demonstrators in front of a Las Vegas courthouse joined with organizers across the country Friday night to protest federal immigration detention centers that hold migrants in “inhumane” conditions.
A crowd of about 200 gathered in front of the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse, at 333 Las Vegas Blvd. South, chanting and cheering as speakers rallied against the detention centers, which many called concentration camps. James Patterson, a member of the Las Vegas Democratic Socialists of America, said he helped organize the protest with about 16 other activist groups as part of the nationwide “Lights for Liberty” protests.
A news release from the Lights for Liberty group said Friday night was to protest “inhuman conditions faced by refugees,” and to “demand an end to human detention camps.”
The organization’s Twitter on Friday posted about protests and candle-lit vigils in cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Kansas City, Miami and Seattle.
Patterson, wearing a red shirt with the phrase “Abolish ICE,” said the event was to bring people to one location to speak out about the detention centers.
“It was a really big effort of solidarity with lots of different organizations that have different ideologies,” the 36-year-old said. “Anyone who cares about this issue, we all got together.”
Patterson said a small group of about five counter-protesters, some wearing clothing referencing President Donald Trump, also showed up at the courthouse.
“It got mildly hostile, but for the most part it was just heated debate,” he said.
Battle Born Progress, a Nevada nonprofit, live-streamed the protest through Facebook, showing people speaking passionately about the detention centers, as the occasional shout of a counter-protester could be heard in the background.
Erika Castro, introduced as a member of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, took the microphone and addressed the counter-protesters during her speech, saying she would fight for people like them even if they don’t agree with her.
“As I fight for communities of color and for immigrants, you are included in that,” she said.
Castro told the group she was a recipient of the DREAM Act, and that she still lives in fear for herself and her family. She said stories of children “living in cages” broke her heart.
“Even though I was not born in this country, I know this is not what our country is about,” she said.
Jose Silva, who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico when he was a child, said he spent part of the evening interacting with the counter-protesters.
“They were just ‘trolling,’” Silva said, later adding, “We’re all here to stop the wall. They were here to promote the wall.”
Silva said he views the detention centers as “disgusting.”
“People like me are being taken away from their families, and some of them are dying,” he said. “And that could have potentially been me, or one of my family members, or one of my neighbors.”
The protest came days before U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids reportedly are scheduled. According to The Associated Press, the sweep “remains in flux” and could happen this weekend or later.
Las Vegas was not mentioned as one of the targeted cities during the canceled June raids, but organizers then feared the city’s large Hispanic and immigrant population could make it a target.
Patterson said that if the raids were to happen, he wants immigrants to be prepared and know their legal rights. Like the protest on Friday night, he would speak out against the raids, he said.
“As a lifelong native of Las Vegas — not (in) my town,” he said. “This is a democracy, we have a voice, we’re going to use it. Hopefully people will listen.”