New York City Council members violently arrested protesting immigration activist’s deportation

Ravi Ragbir was detained following a routine check-in with ICE officials.

NYPD officers arrest protesters as an ambulance carrying immigration rights activist Ravi Ragbir leaves. CREDIT: Joana Toro /VIEWpress/Corbis via Getty Images
NYPD officers arrest protesters as an ambulance carrying immigration rights activist Ravi Ragbir leaves. CREDIT: Joana Toro /VIEWpress/Corbis via Getty Images

Eighteen people, including two members of the city council, were arrested on Thursday in New York City when police clashed with demonstrators protesting the forcible deportation of an immigrant rights activist.

Councilmen Ydanis Rodriguez and Jumaane Williams were outside the Javits Federal Building in Manhattan, protesting against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents taking activist Ravi Ragbir into custody. Ragbir was taking part in a routine meeting with ICE when he was suddenly arrested and removed in an ambulance. Protesters attempted to block the ambulance from leaving and were cleared from the street by the NYPD.

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Video footage showed Williams being forcibly taken off the street and thrown against the hood of a car before being handcuffed. Meanwhile, photos showed NYPD officers grabbing Rodriguez by the neck and putting him in a chokehold. Both were then arrested and removed from the protest.

“Ravi Ragbir is an extraordinary man, beloved in his community and dedicated to fighting for immigrant rights,” Jumaane wrote in a Facebook post. “Today, after more than two decades of living in this country, he was detained by ICE and removed in an ambulance. I was arrested while protesting his detention, alongside Ydanis Rodriguez and several of Ravi’s supporters.”

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Ragbir is the executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition, an anti-deportation network of activists in New York City, and has been a permanent resident in the U.S. since 1994 after immigrating from Trinidad in 1991. In 2001, he was sentenced to 30 months in jail on a dubious wire fraud conviction, and he was given a deportation order in 2006 as a result.

In 2011, Ragbir was offered a stay of removal which was renewed ever since. After he was suddenly told by ICE that he would be deported, Ragbir collapsed and an ambulance was brought to transport him to a nearby hospital.

“It appears the police were clearing a path for an ambulance with a patient that was en route to a hospital,” an NYPD spokesperson said. “The NYPD was attempting to clear a path for that ambulance, which was purposely and repeatedly being blocked.” They added that the video evidence was now being reviewed.

“Ravi Rabir means everything to this city,” Kaji Dousa, the co-chair of Rabir’s organisation, told NBC New York. “A longtime New Yorker, a husband and a father, Ravi is beloved by all of us. The fact that ICE has taken him as if his spirit, family ties, and contributions to the community mean nothing is inhumane.”