Protesters keep their social distance while protesting outside Gov. Gavin Newsom's residence in Fair Oaks. (MOLLY STUART)
Protesters keep their social distance while protesting outside Gov. Gavin Newsom's residence in Fair Oaks. (MOLLY STUART)

Jewish protesters keep their distance in action demanding release of ICE detainees

How do you show up for a group protest during the time of coronavirus?

“We stayed in our cars, and whenever we got out of cars we maintained 6 feet of distance,” explained Sam Tunick, who organized the March 22 event in Sacramento on behalf of Jewish group Never Again Action. The protest was meant to press Gov. Gavin Newsom to shut down the state’s detention facilities and release detained immigrants, who are at high risk of contracting the virus.

“The most vulnerable people right now are the people locked in cages in the exact conditions that are going to exacerbate the spread of COVID-19,” Tunick said.

The protest was one of several that Never Again Action is holding across the country. Tunick worked with others involved with Never Again Action, as well as some local groups. Ten or so people showed up — a number that made it “almost a technically safe gathering,” Tunick joked — and parked outside Newsom’s family home in Fair Oaks, about 15 miles outside Sacramento. They hung signs out of their car windows and unfurled a large banner to demand the release of immigrants (with the exception of those with violent criminal records) held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. Another half-dozen people did the same at the State Capitol.

“We’re learning and creating new ways to take action under this crazy circumstance,” Tunick said.

Although ICE is a federal agency, Tunick said the protesters went to Newsom’s home in the hopes of appealing to him directly to use his emergency powers to shut down the state’s detention centers.

Tunick said it was an important message delivered in a socially responsible way — hence, the car protest.

“That’s a big concern,” he said. “We don’t want to be contributing to the spread of this virus.”

He encouraged people interested in the cause to follow Never Again Action on Facebook or Twitter, and to think about what it means for Jews to protest detention camps.

“I’m a grandchild of a Holocaust survivor,” he said. Standing up to protest mistreatment of fellow humans “was what we wished bystanders and enablers during the Holocaust did for our ancestors.”

Maya Mirsky
Maya Mirsky

Maya Mirsky is a J. Staff Writer based in Oakland.