The recent announcement of a proposal by CoreCivic, a private, Tennessee-based company, to build an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in Elkhart County has some residents in search of ways to make their opposition known. The immigrant advocacy group, Elkhart-Goshen Sanctuary Coalition, hosted a seminar Saturday in Elkhart to discuss protest techniques with residents.
About 35 people gathered for the seminar, which took place at a local church. Seminar leaders broke down what it takes to plan a protest and later helped attendees stage a mock protest in the church basement.
The event include open circle discussions that allowed participants to talk about their fears if the detention center becomes a reality in Elkhart, and ask more detailed questions in regards to protests and the role of a witness in case of a tense situation in which law enforcement is involved.
Coordinator of the Sanctuary Coalition Julia Schmidt said it's important for people explore ways to express their opinions and feel safe doing so.
“All these deportations and these things that are happening are happening in the street, so how do we take sanctuary to the streets,” Schmidt said, “and to show up in public ways and say, we are not ok with the deportation of our community members.”
Schmidt says the idea behind the event was to teach protest methods to community advocates, and through word of mouth, have the message of nonviolent protest spread throughout the area. Community advocates from around Elkhart County attended mainly, with Ohio being the farthest distance traveled.
Workshop activities promoted building community, and a safespace for participants to discuss fears related to the detention center.
CoreCivic has so far filed a zoning proposal with Elkhart County. A hearing will take place January 11 to review the plans. The County Council will have a final vote in February.
Update: According to Elkhart County Commissioner Mike Yoder's Facebook page, the plan hearing for CoreCivic's proposed detention facility will be postponed for 30 days. The Plan Commission will now hear the proposal in February, and County Commissioners will approve or deny the plans in March.