FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 1, 2020
Vanesa Suarez, 203-781-6398, firstname.lastname@example.org
Annie Gonzalez, 309-310-2341, email@example.com
On May 1st, people in Unit B of Bristol County ICE custody were being assaulted and pepper sprayed in the middle of a pandemic, further endangering their lives and vulnerability to COVID-19. People in Unit B were told they were going to be tested for COVID-19, and were instructed to pack their bags, leading them to believe that they would be thrown in solitary confinement, a form of torture. In the past, when people in Bristol County ICE detention have been sick, they have been told they were being taken to a medical unit, but instead have been taken to solitary confinement and refused any medical care. Aware of the risks of transmission, folks in Unit B did not want to move outside of the unit for testing, instead requesting they be tested inside their own unit. This request resulted in a violent assault by correctional officers, including the use of pepper spray.
In March, Unit B wrote two letters describing the inhumane treatment from guards, who were inciting panic and fear among the unit. As a group they made demands for their health and safety, including the release of those with “serious medical conditions,” those considered “low-risk,” and those who have not yet had their bond hearing. Unit B has been organizing for their release in service of public health. They are being forced to be in close proximity to each other, and are being denied hygiene supplies and masks that are necessary to prevent the transmission of the virus.
Testimony from Unit B at 6:40 pm via phone with Annie Gonzalez Milliken:
“The sheriff approached me violently, grabbed my arm and scratched me, police came with pepper spray, spraying in everyone’s face and spraying in my mouth, and I suffer asthma. And then they retreated, a lawyer was on the phone and he witnessed everything, they cut off all the phones except 2 are still working, they’re outside with the canine unit, bullet proof vests, and riot gear. They want to take us to the other unit to be tested, we don’t want to go on the other unit for cross contamination, we want to be tested, but not moved. they asked us to pack up, which means we are being moved. the sheriff attacked me, he was out of his mind, I saw the devil in his eyes.
“What I told everyone in the unit, just sit down and don’t react and don’t be violent, take the punch, I hope that everyone will follow my advice.”