Biden interrupted by chants of ‘end detentions now’ at Georgia rally

‘I agree with you, gimme another five days’: Biden tells hecklers he wants to close private prisons at Georgia rally

Protesters demand administration end detentions at US-Mexico border, as president responds by telling them for-profit prisons ‘should not exist’

Alex Woodward
New York
Friday 30 April 2021 09:06
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Joe Biden paused his remarks during a rally in Georgia when a group shouted out “end detentions now” and “abolish ICE” as he started his speech.

The protesters also called out “communities not cages” during the drive-in rally in Duluth on Thursday.

Mr Biden responded by saying that he wants to end the use of private prisons in the US, which he pledged in an executive order that instructed the Justice Department to decline to renew contracts with private, for-profit prisons.

He told staff to give them a microphone, adding “I agree with you, man, gimme another five days”, though it was unclear whether he could understand their chants from the crowd.

“Folks, y’all know what they’re talking about,” he said from the stage. “There should be no private prisons, period. None, period ... They should not exist, and we are working to close all of them.”

He added: “I promise you.”

Before he paused his remarks, protesters called out “we voted for you, too” and “our families are dying” as a group held a wide orange banner facing the stage.

Protesters were escorted out by staff.

Mr Biden’s administration has faced growing demands from immigration advocates and civil rights groups to lift a blockade on asylum seekers that has stranded thousands of people at the US-Mexico border and to end the practice of putting unaccompanied migrant minors in law enforcement custody.

The administration has sought to expedite the process of moving hundreds of minors out of US Customs and Border Protection custody and into Health and Human Services shelters.

The American Civil Liberties Union has urged the Department of Homeland Security to immediately shutter dozens of Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centres, including a facility in Georgia where a nurse filed a whistle-blower complaint that alleged detainees had their uteruses removed without their consent.

Mr Biden’s executive order targeting for-profit prisons does not address ICE facilities.

Advocates have revived widespread calls to “abolish ICE” following Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda, as Mr Biden’s Homeland Security begins to limit the agency’s law enforcement actions in an effort to ensure the “fair administration of justice with legitimate civil immigration enforcement interests”, according to newly released interim guidance.

The protest at the event on Thursday – marking the president’s 100th day in office – underscores the challenges facing his administration as he rallies support for an ambitious domestic agenda to pressure Republican lawmakers to pass White House-backed legislation, including a proposal to put millions of immigrants on the path to citizenship.

His Georgia rally followed his first primetime address to a joint session of Congress, and to the millions of Americans watching, to outline his multi-trillion dollar proposal to expand federal safety nets and rebuild the nation’s infrastructure.

In a reprise in Duluth, he made a direct appeal to Georgia residents with a campaign-style event to promote his agenda – universal pre-kindergarten and two-year community college, federally funded childcare and paid family and sick leave, massive investments infrastructure, and passage of a $1.9 trillion relief package to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

He also gave credit to Georgia voters for making it happen, after historic turnout flipped the state to a Democratic presidential win for the first time since 1992, and two Democratic senators replaced incumbent Republicans in critical races that changed the balance of power in Congress.

Without the elections of Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, his relief legislation would not have passed, he said.

“Those two votes made the difference. It passed by a single vote, and that means we owe a special thanks to the people of Georgia,” he said. “Because of you ... the rest of America was able to get the help they got.”

He also credited voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams for “empowering the people to vote and making their voices heard.”

She “could be anything she wants to be”, including the president, Mr Biden said.

“We won the first round,” he said, alluding to mid-term congressional elections in 2022, “but there’s more coming up.”

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