What began as a peaceful Manhattan rally in support of immigration rights advocate Ravi Ragbir took a turn for the worse when ICE detained him. Ravi – technically an illegal alien living under the threat of deportation for around a decade – was attending a routine check-in with ICE when they took him into custody where he reportedly passed out. Eighteen people were arrested – including two city councilmen, Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) and Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan).
Who is Ravi Ragbir?
Ravi Ragbir is the executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City and, technically, an illegal alien. Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, Mr. Ragbir immigrated legally and was granted permanent residency in 1994. He lost that status, however, after being convicted of wire fraud. He was ordered deported in 2006 but managed to remain in the country by challenging the ruling, according to the New York Post.
Ragbir claims that he was unaware of the fraud at the time, and has asked the court to reverse the original judgment in his case, citing faulty jury instruction and inadequate legal representation. New York Daily News reports:
Ragbir says he was a low-level employee at a now-defunct mortgage broker called Household Finance Corporation when he processed applications by a real estate broker that he later learned were fraudulent.
According to a recent court filing, Ragbir’s lawyers argue his jury was unfairly allowed to convict him for his “willful blindness” to the fraud.
Whether or not Mr. Ragbir was actually guilty, of course, is uncertain. However, if he were wrongfully accused of fraud – or even if the true amount had been low enough for the charge to be a misdemeanor rather than a felony – his green card would not have been revoked.
Claims of Police Brutality and Sexual Abuse
Those who gathered to support Mr. Ragbir outside the Javits Federal Building protested as word of the arrest and fainting spread. They chanted “Ravi! Ravi!” and attempted to block the ambulance transporting Mr. Ragbir to Lower Manhattan Hospital. Federal agents and local police tried pushing the crowd back, but ultimately the ambulance had to back down the street and take another path to a different hospital.
There was a lot of pushing and shoving – as one would expect when police officers attempt to clear a group of protesters who refuse to move of their own volition. And, of course, there were several complaints of the police responding too aggressively, including a tweet from one of the city councilmen who was among the arrested:
This is NOT how you treat people who are protesting for Human Rights. This is NOT what democracy looks like. We can’t call ourselves progressives and pro-immigrants when the @NYPDnews is doing chokehold to us. Injusticia! @NYCMayorsOffice @DHSgov @ICEgov #ImmigrationReform pic.twitter.com/5Y9cRToA3C
— Ydanis Rodriguez (@ydanis) January 11, 2018
A female protester claimed she was sexually assaulted by police, according to The Post:
“They were picking me up and throwing me because I’m small enough that they could,” freelance journalist Indigo Olivier, 22, of Brooklyn, told The Post.
“They kept going for my breasts. They were really aggressively pushing and I kept saying, ‘Those are my breasts.’”
Mayor de Blasio has been briefed on the protest and police response, according to spokesman Eric Philips. He added that the area was covered by cameras and that the city would be reviewing the footage to analyze the behavior of both the police and the protesters.
Where Protesters Went Wrong
Regardless of the reason for or nature of a protest, anyone who responds to the police attempting to move them with physical resistance can expect things to escalate. The more you resist, the more force will be applied. Eventually, this can lead to the use of some rather uncomfortable maneuvers and arrests. Whether that’s constitutional or not has been the subject of many debates, but right or wrong, that’s just what’s going to happen.
Why would Ravi’s supporters try to block his ambulance? Apparently, they thought the medical emergency vehicle was just a clever ploy to allow ICE to get their prisoner away from the protestors and to another facility.
Ultimately, the very people there to support Mr. Ragbir could have prevented him from getting critical medical care. One NYPD union leader asked de Blasio to begin an investigation on the council members who actively got in front of the ambulance – with its emergency lights on – in an attempt to block its progress toward the hospital.
Lieutenants Benevolent Association President Lou Turco was right when he said that, while everyone has the right to protest, no one has the right to block an ambulance on the way to the hospital. The fact that two of these people were city council members – who dictate policy for the city of New York – only makes matters worse.
What Happens Now?
Those arrested at the protest were taken to the 7th Precinct headquarters. Councilman Williams was released with a desk appearance ticket, but Councilman Rodriguez was booked on charges of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and obstruction of government administration. He will be held until his arraignment.
The Immigrant Rights Clinic of Washington Square Legal Services filed a suit on behalf of Ravi Ragbir Thursday against Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other officials. They claim Ragbir has a stay of removal that is valid through January 19, rendering his arrest premature. It remains to be seen what fate awaits Mr. Ragbir.