Demonstrators visually and vocally presented the suppressed demands of immigrant detainees on hunger striker to George Zoley, CEO of for-profit prison giant GEO Group. Zoley resides in a wealthy gated community in Boca Raton, Florida, just miles away from the company headquarters.
“We are here in front of George Zoley’s neighborhood to bring the demand of the immigrant detention center hunger strikers to him at his home and know that he cannot ignore them any longer,” said protestor Britni Hiatt.
Over the past two weeks hunger strikes have taken place at two different immigrant detention facilities owned and operated by the GEO Group, one in Tacoma, Washington and one in Conroe, Texas. The hunger strike began in Washington with 750 detainees refusing food and work, and spread to 120 detainees in Texas. Demands of the hunger strikers include: an immediate halt to all deportations, just treatment for detainees, an end to crowding in cells, an end to double judgment policies, adequate food and medical care, affordable calling prices and lower rates at commissary.
GEO Group has responded to both strikes by revoking the rights of detainees, threatening to force-feed strikers, putting strikers in solitary confinement, threatening their immigration status and cutting off communication with the outside world.
“The whistle has been blown,” says Cici Claar, “It’s time for GEO to address these offenses and stop engaging in retaliation and suppression.”
These strikes are not isolated events, but rather a symptom of a private detention system that promotes and preserves an environment rife with inhumane conditions because it benefits the bottom line. Federal policy helps to ensure that this system persists by funneling a steady stream of detainees into private detention centers.
While protestors gathered outside of Zoley’s mansion, the #Not1More campaign—the folks who have been supporting hunger strikes in Tacoma and Texas—shut down ICE at an Alabama detention center. Locally, Palm Beach County news reported on the federal mandate that requires detaining 34 thousand illegal immigrants each day nationwide.
Geo Group responded to media: “As a matter of policy, our company does not take a position on or advocate for any specific immigration policy.” Yet, GEO Group is a known participant in the American Legislative Exchange Council, a lobby group that writes anti-immigration legislation for state representatives.
Today’s protest is one of many in recent years targeting GEO in Palm Beach County. Nearly a year ago, students at Florida Atlantic University successfully stopped the the renaming of their football stadium as “GEO Group Stadium” and forced the school president to resign in shame. In April 2013 Trans and Women’s Action Camp Florida shut down GEO Group’s headquarters for a day in Boca Raton.
Evening news coverage here.