occasional blog posts & opinion pieces by desrowVISUALS photographer Chris Goodwin

"Two Windows" - (7/27/19)

I’ve covered a few demonstrations at the ICE detention facility in Aurora, Co over the last few months and have taken many pictures and a few videos. These two shots above tell a story that wouldn't be obvious unless you were there at both protests.

The picture on the left was taken on June 21st. A few hundred people had gathered on the street outside the main entrance to the GEO Group managed facility to protest Trump administration policies on immigration and refugees seeking asylum in the U.S., including the separation of children from their parents as well as the horrifying conditions the detainees inside are kept under.

After rallying, the demonstrators marched around the building and on the second pass on the south side, an unexpected, extraordinary thing happened. Detainees inside the building heard the chanting marchers going by and came to the windows. In what became the most moving, emotional scene I've ever photographed, the men waved, clapped their hands, flashed the peace sign, raised their fists in the air and said thank-you to the crowd that had stopped in its tracks when they saw faces appearing in the windows. Some of the men held up signs, others tried to signal phone numbers for someone to call for them or to indicate the amount of time that had spent in detention. Some protesters did their best to write down numbers and hold up written messages as the crowd kept chanting "let them out", "si se puede", "abolish ice" and "we love you". This went on for about 30 minutes or so.

At one point I stopped taking pictures and put my camera down to just take in this whole amazing scene and I made eye contact with one of the men at the window. I was a little surprised at first, not expecting such a personal connection but I waved to him and he smiled and waved back. After a couple of minutes of trying to communicate with hand gestures I flashed a peace sign, he flashed one back and I went back to taking pictures. It was a moment that is hard to put in words.

It was obvious to anyone who attended this protest that the detainees were overjoyed about this demonstration of support for them, judging from the smiles on their faces and their eagerness to connect with the marchers who stopped outside their windows. All of this made what happened 3 weeks later even more infuriating and hard to swallow.

On July 12th another march & rally was held at the same detention center. Instead of a few hundred protesters, about 3,000 people showed up this time. As the march, which this time started a few blocks away, made it's way past the south side of the building, there was a dramatic difference from last time. No smiling, waving detainees elated to see and connect with the people who had gathered to support them. What the marchers saw instead were the covered up windows in the second picture on the right. Those who made the decision, whether it was ICE officials directly or their GEO Group private contractors, saw what had happened 3 weeks earlier and didn't want to let it happen again! The ICE plan seems to be, to keep the detainees isolated as much as possible in the squalid, degrading conditions that more and more of us on the outside are becoming aware of and outraged by.

There's no doubt that protests will continue at ICE facilities around the country and here in Colorado. On the next pass by the south side of the ICE detention center in Aurora, it might be wise for marchers to pause at the windows, whether they are covered up or not, and let the people inside know that "we still see you".

For more pictures & videos from the demonstrations mentioned above as well as other actions on Immigration Reform and Refugee issues from the last few years, go to: desrowvisuals.com/Immigration-Reform


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