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Donna Schaper in Huffington Post: Civil Disobedience – Time is Now

January 21, 2010

Reverend Donna Schaper of Judson Memorial Church getting handcuffed, during civil disobedience in protest against draconian immigration laws and calling for release of Jean Montrevil, detained immigrant right leader. (photo by Mizue Aizeki)

Donna Schaper writes for the Huffington Post:

When we woke up in our several beds on the morning of December 30, 2009, we were one people. Now we are a different people. On that day, one of our members, who was born in Haiti, Jean Montrevil, was detained at his regular check in and first put in a detention center on Varick Street, right down the street from our solemn assembly. He was later moved to the detention center in York, Pennsylvania where he now resides. It took an earthquake to stop his deportation. It also took some civil disobedience in the street. Without that action, Jean would have been in a now collapsed jail in Port Au Prince. With it, he remained state side, in order to continue to lead our growing national movement for immigrant rights and to be able to be a father to his four children and husband to his American born wife. He does not qualify for “temporary protected status” because he has a felony in his youth. SO now he is in limbo. Can’t go to Haiti, can’t come home to his wife and four children and business, can’t get out of detention center. That is limbo!

On two different occasions, a group of clergy was joined by the Montrevil’s 26-year-old Sunday school teacher, and arrested on Houston Street last week, to stop the cruel and immoral absurdity of deporting Jean. We didn’t know then that we were galvanizing a national movement, saying enough to the surplus of injustice that has surrounded his situation. Jean has been buried under rubble for years.

The older members of the New York City New Sanctuary Movement were against the civil disobedience as a tactic. “Stale.” “Over used.” “No one will notice.” The younger ones – now the vanguard of this movement – said we have to do something. So we did. None of us could have imagined what happened next. 90 plus organizations are on board, locally and nationally. Money arrived in the mail to support the family. CNN bloggers and the New York Times picked up the case. We were both viral and on the street, in accelerating numbers that resulted in ICE (Immigration and Control Enforcement) to ask that we stop the messages as we were getting in the way of their phone systems and their “ability to do their work.” You bet we were.

Is this an elegy to the art of civil disobedience? Yes. It is also a song to getting serious The Riverside Church Council voted to offer physical sanctuary to an immigrant family if they wanted it. Even if Jean gets home, which we believe he will, we are just getting started.

Like the government’s current intention to not even allow some immigrants to BUY health insurance, Jean’s captivity by the state is stupid, impractical, un economical and risks putting a whole family on welfare, which welfare the same punitive tax payers who want to be safe above all, will end up paying for. Stupidity joins immorality in this potential deportation. Like many immigrants, Jean is a businessman, employs people and pays taxes and has for over twenty years.

When you get serious, you connect the dots. One of the dots is Jean and the thousands like him, already detained, even more already deported, leaving behind children who will be known like those in the Cuban boatlift or Japanese detentions during World War II. We will not look back on this period of our history with anything but shame at what we have done to children. [Read the rest here and COMMENT on the post!]

One Comment leave one →
  1. 4854derrida permalink
    February 9, 2010 8:09 pm


    I’ve recently uploaded two rare interviews with the Wobblie, anarchist, and activist Dorothy Day.

    Day had begun her service to the poor in New York City during the Depression with Peter Maurin, and it continued until her death in 1980. Their dedication to administering to the homeless, elderly, and disenfranchised continues in many parts of the world.

    Please post or announce the availability of these videos for those who may be interested in hearing this remarkable humanist.

    They may be located here:

    Thank you

    Dean Taylor

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