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Around 6:00 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, activists with Christmas in Tornillo: The Occupation set up a blockade during a shift change that halted 20 charter buses carrying workers into the Tornillo detention camp. Organizers of the protest say 3,000 children are being held at the detention camp, which activists refer to as a “concentration camp.”
The blockade included a Christmas Tree made from water jugs that had been slashed by border control and numerous containers of water. The jugs were originally placed in the desert to help migrants survive their journey to the United States. Organizers say jugs were recovered by No Más Muertes after being destroyed by border control.
The shift change was disrupted for an hour by the blockade before police turned the buses around. When the police attempted to remove the blockade participants and the obstructions they had assembled from the street, two activists surrounded themselves with containers of water, knelt down and continued to hold space.
After multiple threats of arrest, DHS and El Paso County Sheriff’s officers chose to leave the scene without making arrests. But 30 minutes later, Texas State Troopers moved in and removed the two and the remaining obstructions that were used in the blockade.
The group explained the theme of the blockade vigil in a statement:
“The water blockade inspires connections to movements across Turtle Island which at the heart of them all is the struggle for access to, and protection of, clean drinking water.
In it we see the struggles in Flint, Indigenous struggles against the oil and gas industry, water privatization, the walks to bring water to migrants crossing the border in the desert, Palestinians being denied water in occupied territories, the criminalization of humanitarian aid, and holding those that have passed away in detention due to dehydration.
The occupation lives on indefinitely, if you feel called to join you should.”
Members of the encampment have carried out a series of solidarity actions at the facility, bringing giant puppets to the camp’s fences, constructing Christmas visuals, and maintaining a visible presence of support. They have also provided mutual aid in the form of translation services and medical aid to migrants who were stranded without resources when ICE dropped hundreds of migrants off at an El Paso bus station a few days before Christmas without alerting area shelters or social services.