HARTFORD, V.T.–On Wednesday, August 14th, community organizers from the group Rise! Upper Valley, along with hundreds of supporters, demonstrated outside Hartford Town Hall, Hartford, V.T. in response to the detention of 18 Hartford and Lebanon community members. Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other agencies conducted several raids over the past two weeks, beginning on July 31st, when nine were detained in Hartford. Several detainees were working on a construction project at Dartmouth College and staying at the Super 8 Motel in Hartford. They reported the motel was being watched by Hartford Police officers leading up to the raid. This same group of construction workers were apprehended at a McDonalds with 7 more detained contributing to 16 detained among the 18 total in the past two weeks.
Rise! Upper Valley is highly alarmed about this development–now, more than ever, it is clear that policies by the federal government are affecting the Upper Valley’s most vulnerable community members. Rise! makes two demands of Hartford specifically from the Selectboard: (1) demand the immediate release of the 18 migrants currently held under police detention within the Dover Facility and (2) that the Hartford Selectboard cease stalling and immediately pass and implement the unamended Welcoming Hartford Ordinance that will prohibit any further collaboration between the Hartford Police Department (HPD) and ICE. and ensure a safer Hartford for its community members most affected by ICE’s actions.
The demonstration on Wednesday was supposed to take place in conjunction with a joint meeting between the Hartford Selectboard and School Board scheduled that afternoon. In response, the town canceled the meeting on the day of the group’s action–postpoing once again the opportunity to vote on the ordinance chosen by affected communities. Rise! Upper Valley believes the Selectboard’s choice to repeatedly walk away from the issue, to postpone the August 14th meeting, after ignoring the urgent needs of the community’s most vulnerable, continues to facilitate violence against immigrants.
Demonstrators sang, chanted, and made their bodies vulnerable to highlight the urgency of the current political and humanitarian crisis in the Upper Valley facilitated by Hartford, ICE, and the Trump Administration. After speeches by affected community members, the demonstration culminated in a march to the intersection of Maple St. and Hartford Ave. Hundreds of community members occupied the street for more than two hours. Law enforcement from four local agencies were called to police the rally, including HPD, Lebanon Police Department, Hanover Police Department , and Vermont State Troopers. After being asked to vacate the street by Hartford Police Department’s Sergeant Moody, activists locked arms and blocked the intersection until being arrested by HPD with a count of 26 demonstrators arrested.
Wednesday’s demonstration is the latest action after 9 months of working with Hartford community and Selectboard members to draft policy to protect our undocumented community members. Throughout that time, Rise! has peacefully engaged with Hartford’s democratic process through consistent attendance and participation in the town’s regularly scheduled Selectboard meetings as well as educating and lobbying community and Selectboard members alike. In communications between Rise! organizers and town officials, accounts of police action–whether they collaborated with ICE or not–have been inconsistent and contradictory to one another. HPD has claimed it does not get involved in affairs related to immigration status, yet Rise! has confirmed this to be false. Before the multiple raids in Hartford and Lebanon, ICE notified HPD of their presence in the town. Chief Kasten reported that federal officers stopped by the Hartford station to use a scale for a purported cocaine seizure. The Selectboard’s inconsistent stories and lack of knowledge about ICE’s presence in our community, until we informed them, demonstrates that now, more than ever, the town of Hartford’s obligation to protect its community members, specifically those under ICE detention, must be demanded.
Rise! Upper Valley is an independent activist organization in the Upper Valley by and for immigrants, Black, Brown, and Indigenous people of color, trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming queer folks, and allies. The group centers the voices of those most affected and marginalized by the Trump administration and takes seriously the concerns and fears of immigrants and asylum seekers in our very own community. Rise! plans to continue to organize and engage publicly with the community until all members of Hartford are protected.
Notes to editors:
- Other communities in Vermont are also working to adopt policies that close legal loopholes and prevent police-ICE collaboration. For more information on the Fair and Impartial Policing Policy adopted by the city of Winooski: https://www.winooskivt.gov/355/Fair-and-Impartial-Policing
- For previous press coverage:
For further information please contact:
Rise! Upper Valley: [email protected]