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Immigration protest's human chain blocks traffic

March 6, 2018

A faith-based group critical of Indiana Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly's and Republican Sen. Todd Young's stances on immigration literally took to the streets Tuesday, blocking traffic in front of the federal courthouse in Indianapolis and near both senators' downtown offices.

Clergy and community activists linked arms to form a human chain that blocked the intersection of Pennsylvania and Ohio streets outside the Birch Bayh Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse. Indianapolis police set up a perimeter around the courthouse, rerouting traffic during the protest that was staged around 11 a.m.

Officers led away people, one by one, who blocked the intersection. Those arrested did not resist when taken into custody. Security was noticeably increased outside and inside the federal courthouse. More than a half-dozen federal marshals took positions outside the public entrance.

Rosie Bryant, community organizer for Faith in Indiana, which sponsored Tuesday's action, said the location was selected because of its proximity to Donnelly and Young's Indianapolis offices.

As officers individually led demonstrators from the intersection, Bryant said she expected about 15 people would be arrested for participating in the protest.

"They’re willing to put their bodies on the line for immigrant families," Bryant said. She said the demonstration had been called in response to the senators' support of legislation that she said is "against keeping immigrant families together and is tearing families apart."

Both Donnelly and Young supported legislation in January to avoid a government shutdown. Most Senate Democrats opposed the bill because it postponed consideration of legal protection for "Dreamers" — young people who were brought illegally into the U.S. when they were children. Former President Barack Obama extended protections for Dreamers through his Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals action, but President Donald Trump has pledged to phase out DACA protections.

On the sidewalks near Tuesday's protest, dozens of supporters cheered and took cellphone video of protesters who sang hymns and chanted "No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here." Some carried placards in support of immigrants and critical of Donnelly. 

A spokeswoman for Donnelly said in a statement Tuesday he believes Congress should address DACA so that protections for Dreamers, including about 10,000 in Indiana, aren't upended. The statement noted court injunctions in place bar the DACA program from being terminated.

“I recently supported several proposals that came before the Senate, which included bipartisan bills to protect DACA youth and strengthen our borders," Donnelly said in a statement. "I’m disappointed the Senate failed to advance a DACA solution. I believe the only way we will address DACA is by working together, and I will continue working with my colleagues, Republicans and Democrats, to find a resolution, though ultimately, Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker Paul Ryan, and President Trump will need to support a commonsense solution too.”

A spokesman for Young said in a statement, "Senator Young remains hopeful we can address immigration and border security in a bipartisan way and give legal certainty to those already in the country." 

Spokespeople for Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department did not immediately reply to messages seeking comment.

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