Written by Maya Flores (DSA Immigrant Rights Committee & DSA-Fresno)
November 25th, 2018 should be remembered as the day we, the United States and the Trump administration, gassed women and children in a sovereign nation. It should also be remembered as the day that those still aligned with constitutional and international law stood up for human rights. Those of us who organized the rallies, the marches, and the demonstrations had no idea that Nov. 25thwould end in tear gas attacks, injuries, and stampedes. Some were at the border just to show solidarity, but would end up being tear gassed as well, others held events, while others watched in horror as the events unfolded November the 25th. It will be forever etched in our minds as both a Day of National Action and as a Day of National Shame.
DSA chapters nationwide organized for a day of action on November 25th, 2018, to stand with the asylum seekers and to reject the false narrative of “invasion” and “illegitimacy”, to remind everyone of the long history of US political and economic interference that has acted as a catalyst for the mass exodus, and to declare “let them all in! Dejalos entrar!”
In San Diego, DSA-San Diego teamed up with Otay Mesa Detention Resistance, the Migrant and Refugee Solidarity Coalition, People Over Profits-SD, Union del Barrio, and other orgs to hold a rally and a march to the border. According to local news reports, there were over 600 attendees standing up for the rights of the asylum seekers! They held an initial rally with speakers, during which time multiple US helicopters buzzed low over their heads several times prior to the gassing at the border. After the speeches, the activists marched to the border en mass to show solidarity for the refugee caravan. San Diego is the closest to the border and DSA San Diego members felt it was their crucial duty to show up to declare “let them in! Dejalos entrar!” What nobody expected was the unprecedented and illegal use of violence against asylum seekers who were in a sovereign country at the hands of the US government.
Steven Nieder (DSA-San Diego) was at the border near the front of the crowd when the US tear gassed the crowds, including many women and children. Steven was kind enough to not only give DSA his personal narrative, but to also get permission from an on-the-ground photographer so DSA can publish his startling, vivid, and shocking photographs from that day, November 25th. Here is his narrative, written in the first person, which he sent to me:
[Steven Nieder’s narrative]: I was there doing human rights observing and trying to help those who had been teargassed, as there were multiple barrages. The Mexican police had funneled everyone that tried to go to the port of entry into the canal next to the border. The caravan members involved were a rather small contingent of the group in TJ, and it was made up mostly of middle school and high school aged boys. I was staying back to where the teargas from the previous waves was manageable. I went up to the border fence, which in this particular area is just a few barbwire rolls on top of each other, when I thought everything was coming to an end. There was a layer of media next to the border, followed by a handful of policia in riot gear that was getting the caravan members to leave. I thought the events were over and was facing away from the border when I heard shots starting to go off. As I turned around, I found myself in a good 50 foot cloud of teargas. I started running and immediately was struggling to breathe and see. I wanted to drop into the canal, but knew if I ran onto an uneven surface I'd fall, so I kept running through the smoke. I, along with most others, was running with my eyes closed. I opened them when I started running into people. People were trampling over a girl probably ~10-12 years old due to having their eyes closed. A few of us were able to block her from the running crowd and get her to her feet again. I don't think I've fully processed it all yet, there were kids crying and a few women vomiting uncontrollably. It was pretty much just the media and policia who were actually next to the border at that time. It caught me completely off guard, as we were just standing there and they gassed us with our backs to them. [End of narrative]
In other cities, other DSA chapters held their own solidarity events to declare “Let them In!”
In New York, DSA-NY joined forces with Women’s Labor Network, NYC Socialists-ISO, Cosecha NYC, Enlace, and New Sanctuary Coalition to host the Refugee Caravan Solidarity Day of Action for a rally and symbolic march. They met on a street corner and several activists gave powerful speeches to the crowd. They had a list of demands, some of which reiterated constitutional and international law, which the Trump administration has begun to violate (i.e. allow people to apply for asylum, process them with expediency, etc.).
In Los Angeles, DSA-Los Angeles and 6 other orgs co-hosted a rally with the LA for Refugees Coalition to organize a vigil at the Metropolitan detention center in solidarity with asylum seekers trapped at the border. They stood outside the detention center and set up a makeshift memorial with candles, flowers, and pro-immigrant rights signs. Together, they lit candles and voiced dissent against these human rights violations.
In the East Bay, East Bay-DSA joined forces with the Migrant and Refugee Solidarity Coalition, the EB-DSA Feminist Caucus, and International Socialist Org-Northern CA orgs to hold an event full of speeches, pro-immigrant signs, and solidarity.
In Fresno, CA, DSA-Fresno (currently under organizational restructuring) held a small rally with signs at two major intersections in solidarity. I (the writer of this piece) and my DSA comrade Alex Orozco were the first to show up, only to be greeted by a dozen members of the alt-right, armed with camcorders, megaphones, pro-ice signs, giant Trump flags, and their trademark hatred. We stood there, holding signs and ignoring the taunting and verbal abuse of the right-wing until, after almost 2 hours, the right packed up and left after spitting out anti-immigrant and anti-socialist vitriol the entire night. By the end, we were a group of 7 or 8 DSA members and 2 immigrant rights activists from the community, against 20 right wingers. The local news showed up and comrade Alex Orozco spoke to a reporter on-camera. What kept us going was the knowledge that, as socialists, we could not ignore the plight and human rights abuses against asylum seekers committed by our own government, especially in light of what happened at the border by the time our evening rally had begun….
Thank you to the brave photographer, Jeff Valenzuela, for granting permission to use his shocking photographs with this piece. Let these images Jeff Valenzuela captured be a reminder of what we, as socialists, anarchists, and other leftists, fight for: equality and access to basic human needs for all, regardless of who you are. Thank you to Steven Nieder, who gave me his first person account, who was teargassed himself, and who is (and remains) committed to the cause and to the safety of the asylum seekers! Thank you to all those who stood up to the right, who stood up against violations of constitutional and international law, and who stood up for the asylum seekers! On behalf of the Democratic Socialists of America, you and your actions of solidarity are what we strive to embody as an organization and as a community!
Let us remember this day as a day of action---and a day of shame, but let us not lose hope. We are many and we are not backing down so long as there is injustice in the world! Let this day of action/day of shame be one of 364 other days of action! From now until forever, we shall declare: Let them in! Déjalosentrar!