CHICAGO - An immigration protest in Little Village on Wednesday spiraled out of control.
It started as a group demanding a Chicago center release immigrant children, but ended with some demonstrators throwing smoke bombs into buildings.
The protest was being held just two blocks east of police headquarters, and included fireworks that were fired into a facility operated by Heartland Alliance. The protesters were demanding the release of children who are being detained there because of concerns over COVID-19.
The group of protesters say the children have friends or family they can stay with, and are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 after a few dozen positive tests across the seven facilities being managed by Heartland Alliance and the archdiocese.
Police had to detain several unruly protesters who lobbed smoke bombs at the building. Heartland Alliance released a statement accusing the protesters of spreading lies and scaring the children. It acknowledges there have been 42 positive COVID-19 tests, but says all children in the facilities are doing well.
Still, the protesters showed up demanding their release.
“The vast majority of the kids have families. The only reason they’re in here is because they’re being detained because their families don’t have documents,” said Marta of the Little Village Solidarity Network. “So we’ve been asking and demanding these kids be released for years. We want an end to detention…but now that there’s a pandemic, it’s really urgent. We need reunification now.”
Protesters are asking the Trump Administration for the emergency release of these children. Heartland Alliance says closing the shelters would make these children even more vulnerable, and its goal is to unite them with caring adults who have been vetted properly.