City marshals blocked immigrant rights activists from protesting on the steps of Las Vegas City Hall Monday, arguing they required a permit.
Less than a month after Arriba Las Vegas Worker Center held a press conference in front of City Hall to announce a lawsuit against detention practices at the city jail, the organization returned, joined by representatives from national groups, to continue to speak out against immigration enforcement on a local level.
“We were here three weeks ago and there was no issue with us being here, “ said Bliss Requa-Trautz, the director of Arriba. “Today, we saw local law enforcement interfering with our rights to be on public property and bring our message to the community.”
Jace Radke, a spokesman with the City of Las Vegas, said the space directly in front of City Hall is “a plaza that is a rental area.”
“Protestors are asked to be outside the bollards on the sidewalk unless they have arranged to rent the Plaza,” he said.
Following the threats of citations, the group began to relocate onto the designated sidewalk area about 20 feet away in order to comply. At one point when Requa-Trautz tried to retrieve her belongings, an officer stopped her.
“He was physically preventing me from trying to take our belongings,” she said. “I was just one individual crossing into that space and he told me I didn’t have the right.”
As the demonstration resumed on the sidewalk, a group of officers formed a line on the steps to create a barrier.
“Did anyone notice the border they just created during this?” Gabriel Caban Cubero, an immigrants rights organizer from Adelante Alabama Worker Center asked the crowd. “They pushed us out of our space.”
In the last six months, other groups such as civil rights activists and homeless providers decrying the city’s action on homelessness, have gathered numerous times in front of City Hall without incident and without paying rent to the city.
Radke said law enforcement has asked those groups to move as well. Activists counter that although they’ve encountered resistance from marshals before, enforcement hasn’t been aggressively pursued until Monday.
It costs $150 to rent the space, but approval is at the City’s discretion. The application notes: “The city will not consider utilizing space for any event that does not demonstrate a broader community impact either through a business, nonprofit organization, or an event designed to enhance professional development of City of Las Vegas residents.”
Some worry Monday’s actions indicate increasing tension between the city and activists seeking to speak out.
Twelve protesters were arrested when hundreds of people gathered at the Fremont Street Experience in January as a rebuke toward the City Council for passing two ordinances that ban sleeping and camping on sidewalks. Opponents fear the measures will criminalize being homeless.
Mayor Carolyn Goodman argued those protesters were paid for their efforts.
Requa-Trautz of Arriba says the organizations won’t be deterred, regardless of the opposition.
“In the face of intimidation, we know our rights,” she said.
As Monday’s protest ended, people began chanting, “We’ll be back.”
The event, which featured activists and groups connected with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, was part of ongoing efforts nationally to address immigration enforcement at the local level and push back against municipal governments cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other federal law enforcement agencies.
Local groups have been calling for more accountability and oversight in the role of local detention centers in enforcement efforts and have fought Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department over the controversial 287(g) program, which Metro said in October it would suspend.
However, their work isn’t done.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund announced Jan. 17 — in front of City Hall — it was filing a lawsuit on behalf of Alicia Moya, a Las Vegas resident who was arrested in July 2018 on a bench warrant for unpaid traffic citations.
Nevada is one a few states that haven’t decriminalized traffic offenses. The lawsuit states that instead of releasing Moya, who was sentenced to 10 days, the jail continued to hold her on a federal immigration request.
“Every person living in the United States enjoys constitutional rights that no local or federal agency may abrogate,” said Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel for MALDEF. “This lawsuit seeks to end the ongoing violations of the constitutional rights of certain immigrants by the city of Las Vegas.”