Pine Praire ICE Processing Center, Pine Prairie, Louisiana
March 24, 2020
A group of immigrant detainees at the Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center were pepper sprayed Tuesday after becoming “physically combative” in the recreation area, according to ICE officials who spoke with BuzzFeed News.
Noah Lanard, a writer for Mother Jones, spoke with a detainee, Lázaro Siberio-Pérez, a Cuban asylum seeker, who was pepper sprayed following the protest at Pine Prairie. His narrative of the incident, based upon Siberio-Pérez’s statement and others, is as follows:
Homero López, the executive director of ISLA, the legal aid group representing Siberio-Pérez, says the Pine Prairie incident began in the afternoon, when guards asked the seven detainees to leave their shared cell to go outside. They took it as a sign that something bad was about to happen to them; Siberio-Pérez says that guards take out small groups like this when they want to do things like transfer people to solitary confinement.
The detainees refused to go outdoors, and people in other cells started to protest when they saw what was happening, López says. Guards soon arrived wearing riot gear. Siberio-Pérez says they then hit and pepper-sprayed him and his cellmates. A second Cuban man tells me he couldn’t breathe after being pepper-sprayed, adding that he felt like he was burning from within. (Cox says in his statement that the detainees became “physically combative” while refusing to go outside, adding that they “became compliant” after pepper spray was deployed.)
Jacyln Cole, a paralegal at the Southern Poverty Law Center, confirms she heard about the episode from another Pine Prairie detainee, who called her around 5 p.m. on Tuesday while people were being pepper-sprayed. The man told her he could see about eight guards in riot gear, as well as an assistant warden.
The incident occurs amidst a growing wave of protest at jails, prisons and detention centers across the country in response to a growing outbreak of COVID-19 among incarcerated people.
The protest also occurred in the midst of a growing outbreak of COVID-19 throughout Louisiana. “Our rate of growth is faster than any state in the country,” Governor John Bel Edwards said in a televised announcement.
On Wednesday, The Tennessean reported that Pine Prairie is one of three detention facilities in Louisiana with detainees who are being quarantined over fear of possible COVID-19 infection.
Earlier this month, a group of detainees from Cameroon organized a major hunger strike at the facility. Last summer, guards at Pine Prairie also shot pepper spray and rubber bullets at a group of 100 detainees who held a demonstration in the recreation yard in the midst of a hunger strike.
“Detainees in 3 Louisiana ICE facilities under medical isolation amid coronavirus fears“, The Tenneseean, March 25, 2020.
“It’s Still Too Painful to Put Clothes On: An ICE Detainee Reports He Was Pepper-Sprayed and Sent to Isolation“, Mother Jones, March 25, 2020.
“Immigrants Afraid of the Coronavirus Outbreak Are Protesting Inside ICE Facilities”, Buzzfeed News, March 26, 2020.
“Responses To Coronavirus Outbreak Vary Greatly In The American South,” NPR, March 26, 2020.
“Detainees in US immigration jails living in fear as coronavirus spreads“, The Guardian, March 29, 2020.
Article Published: 3/29/2020
Header Photo Source: Rozas Law Firm