A Brooklyn councilman was among more than a dozen arrested last week during a protest in Manhattan against the detention of a prominent immigrants’ rights activist.
Councilman Jumaane Williams (D–Midwood) was participating in a rally on Jan. 11 in support of Brooklyn immigrants’ rights activist Ravi Ragbir, who was detained by federal immigration authorities earlier that day at the Manhattan office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Ragbir, an immigrant from Trinidad who lives in Brooklyn, is the executive direction of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York, an organization he co-founded to support families of immigrants who are fighting detention and deportation.
Ragbir was detained during his routine annual check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. As a high-profile activist at risk of deportation, his check-ins often draw hundreds of supporters, so there was already a large crowd outside the office when Williams and others converged for a protest following news of Ragbir’s detainment.
Police arrested Williams and 17 other protesters after they allegedly blocked an ambulance carrying a patient.
“They repeatedly blocked an FDNY ambulance transporting a sick patient that had its lights and sirens on,” said a police spokesman. “They refused to follow lawful orders.”
But Williams said they were blocking the ambulance because it was taking away Ragbir.
“Ravi Ragbir was taken away in an ambulance, by ICE,” the councilman said in a statement. “This is a tragic injustice for him, his family, and the community that he has served and led for over two decades in this country.”
Williams’ communications director Kevin Fagan confirmed that they were blocking the ambulance, and Williams later shared a tweet from Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan), who was also arrested, showing Ragbir in an ambulance.
Ragbir fainted after learning he was being detained, which prompted authorities to put him in the ambulance, according to a spokesman from the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York.
“He wasn’t feeling terribly well up to that moment cause of the stress. He passed out and regained consciousness,” said spokesman Kirk Cheyfitz from the Coalition. “They not improperly wanted him to go to the hospital.”
Ragbir is now facing deportation, according to Williams.
“If ICE continues along its current track in this case, he will be deported,” he said.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement now lists Ragbir as “in custody” in its database.
Ragbir has faced deportation since being convicted of wire fraud in 2006, but has stayed in Brooklyn while appealing the conviction and subsequent deportation order he received, according to the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York.
Williams was charged with obstructing an emergency medical service vehicle, reckless endangerment, and two counts of disorderly conduct. He was released after receiving a Desk Appearance Ticket, requiring him to appear in court for an arraignment.