For Immediate Release: June 17, 2015
LOCAL AND NATIONAL MUSICIANS, ADVOCATES GATHER OUTSIDE ETOWAH JAIL TO SERENADE DETAINEES IN CELEBRATION OF FATHER’S DAY
Concert is part of Chant Down the Walls series outside of immigration detention centers
GADSDEN, Alabama — This Saturday afternoon musicians, artists, advocates, and families from around Alabama and across the country will gather here outside the Etowah County Detention Center to serenade the detainees with music and poetry in celebration of Father’s Day. The concert is part of Chant Down the Walls, a series of concerts and demonstrations outside immigration detention centers and jails that started in downtown Los Angeles.
Former Etowah detainee Sylvester Owino will be present to participate in the event and share his story. “I spent nine years in immigration detention before finally winning my release in March, thanks to the tireless work of grassroots advocates and lawyers and my own ability to not give up hope,” stated Mr. Owino. “Now I am coming back to Alabama to let other detainees know that they are not alone, and we all must keep fighting. I also want the public to know more about the abuses that go on inside the Etowah detention center, and the way those of us caught up in the immigration detention system are treated as less than human.”
Etowah County has a contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house approximately 300 male immigration detainees in the county jail. The Etowah immigration detention facility is widely reputed to be among the worst in the country, as highlighted in reports by Detention Watch Network and the Women’s Refugee Commission. The immigration detainees at Etowah hale from all over the world and all over the U.S.; some have lived in this country since childhood, and many are actively fighting their deportations in order to remain here with their families and loved ones.
“Immigration detention is an unjustifiably costly and cruel way to ensure that people in deportation proceedings show up for their court and removal dates. This is especially true in a place like Etowah, which provides detainees with woefully inadequate nutrition, medical care, access to recreation and family visitation, and is located hundreds of miles away from most detainees’ families and support networks.” stated Aurea Martinez, National Organizer for Detention Watch Network, who will be participating in the event on Saturday.
“It saddens and shames me to know that such a terrible place exists here in my state,” stated Angel Aldana, Alabama resident and Adelante Alabama Worker Center member. “I’ll be in Gadsden on Saturday to bring some music into the lives of all the detainees in the Etowah jail, and especially to show my solidarity with the sons and fathers locked up in immigration detention.”
“We want to celebrate the struggle of every detainee at Etowah, and let them know that we stand with them and they are not forgotten,” stated Pablo Alvarado, Executive Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), which created the Chant Down the Walls series, and bass guitarist for Los Jornaleros del Norte (the Day Laborers of the North) of Los Angeles, CA, who will perform on Saturday.
Other performers will include Real Life Poets of Birmingham, AL, Angel “Rather Unique” Ibarra of Knoxville, TN, and DJ Paco of Birmingham, AL. Representatives from local and national immigrant rights and detention organizations and former detainee Sylvester Owino will speak at a short press conference during the event.
What: Chant Down the Walls – Father’s Day Serenade at Etowah Detention Center: concert, speeches, and community gathering
When: Saturday, June 20, 2:00-6:00pm; Press Conference at approx. 4:30pm
Where: Etowah County Detention Center, 827 Forrest Ave, Gadsden, AL
Videos of previous Chant Down the Walls events:
Chant Down the Walls in Downtown L.A. with Ana Tijoux & Los Jornaleros del Norte: www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMxC-Dp-wUg
Chant Down the Walls at Adelanto Detention Center: www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOLvWQcqg9k
Resources on Etowah immigration detention:
Women’s Refugee Commission, Politicized Neglect: A Report from Etowah County Detention Center (March 2012), available at https://womensrefugeecommission.org/joomlatools-files/docman-files/etowah_report_final_v2.pdf
Detention Watch Network, Expose & Close: Etowah County Jail (November 2012), available at http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/sites/detentionwatchnetwork.org/files/expose-etowahnov12.pdf