Eighteen people were arrested during a rally in Boston on Tuesday while protesting the detention of migrants in facilities along the southern U.S. border by the Trump administration.
More than 1,000 protesters marched from the New England Holocaust Memorial to the Suffolk County House of Corrections, where U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) houses some of its detainees.
Protesters sang “Never again, para nadie” and held signs that read “No concentration camps” and “My grandparents were holocaust survivors.” The rally, one of several protests scheduled this week in locations including Providence, Los Angeles and San Francisco, was organized by Never Again Action, a national group of mostly Jewish activists, including organizer Hannah Nahar of Somerville.
“As a Jewish kid, I was taught my whole life: Never again, to never let it happen again,” said Nahar. “When people are being counted and detained and pushed out and are dying at the border, that is the beginning of it happening again.”
Representatives from the Suffolk County House of Corrections declined to comment, and ICE officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Thirty-six members of the activist group were arrested Sunday outside a detention facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey, including activist Michaela Caplan. Caplan, who attended Boston's rally on Tuesday, said she has family members who lived through the Holocaust, and she fears ICE arrests will lead to the “dehumanization” of migrants at the border.
“We're already seeing concentration camps,” Caplan said. “We're seeing communities being terrorized and torn up. We're seeing violent rhetoric at the mouths of our politicians. We're seeing this separation of children from their families. We're seeing those children put in incredibly dangerous unsafe conditions, and we’re seeing children and adults dying.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez has been criticized for comparing border detention camps to concentration camps, coming under fire last month for saying the U.S. government is “running concentration camps on our southern border” in a video posted to social media. For activists of the largely-Jewish group Never Again Action like Caplan, the comparison feels apt.
“A concentration camp is detention of a mass group of people based on their identity,” Caplan said. “We’re not saying ‘death camp,’ however I know that all of the camps that my family died in … those started as concentration camps.”
The use of the term “concentration camp” in reference to ICE detention camps has been mired in controversy — so much so that Anti-Defamation League national director Jonathan Greenblatt recently shared a statement in a tweet from last year where he urged people to stop "investing our energy into whether or not a particular comparison crossed a line" and instead focus on stamping out “morally abhorrent actions ... taken by those in power.”
During the rally, activist Miles Meth touched on the national debate.
“We've heard a lot in the past few weeks, different politicians bickering back and forth, claiming to speak for the Jewish people about what is allowed to be called a concentration camp and what isn't,” Miles said into a megaphone. “...There are people who are expressing more outweigh outrage about the words to describe the conditions rather than the conditions themselves.”
Meth said he is the descendant of Holocaust survivors who were able to survive by hiding in the home of a German family.
"When my ancestors were being sent to the camps, I would have wanted thousands of Germans, everyday people, to flow into the streets,” he said. “To say no, to stop it in its tracks. That's why we're all here today.”