Demonstrations targeting Greyhound for its collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement took place in a national day of action in cities across the U.S. on Oct. 25. The coordinated actions were in response to a call from a coalition of organizations, including Fight for Im/migrants and Refugees Everywhere (FIRE), Laundry Workers Center, Street Vendors Project and People’s Power Assemblies/NYC. The coalition has been organizing for months to challenge Greyhound.
Every day in cities from coast to coast, ICE, the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Patrol agents freely board buses with Greyhound’s permission and attempt to identify and detain migrants. While Greyhound is not required to allow these agents onto its buses, the company has done so voluntarily.
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1700, the union that represents Greyhound drivers, mechanics and terminal workers, has courageously spoken out to condemn the company’s complicity in the Trump administration’s racist war against im/migrants.
In a statement issued Oct. 19, Local 1700 President Karen Miller wrote: “With greater frequency over the past two years, Border Patrol agents across the country have been boarding our buses and asking our passengers, especially customers of color, to show their papers. Passengers who are unable to provide documentation showing that they are authorized to be in the United States are then taken off the bus and processed for possible deportation.”
Buses are for transportation, not deportation!
In New York City, activists from FIRE, the Laundry Workers Center, PPA/NYC, the Ministry of Solidarity with the Peoples at Holyrood Episcopal Church/Iglesia Santa Cruz, Street Vendors Project, Workers World Party, the Internationalist Group and numerous migrant communities rallied at the George Washington Bridge Bus Station. They demanded an end to ICE and Border Patrol searches on Greyhound buses and for the closure of migrant detention camps.
A militant rally in front of the station featured speakers from Bolivia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Honduras, India and Mexico. The speaker from the Laundry Workers Center stated that their members are out on the street because they cannot support the separation of families. They demanded immediate closure of the camps. Larry Holmes, a leader of Workers World Party, called for a “people’s impeachment on the street” to tell Greyhound to get fascist ICE off the buses.
The speakers’ energy permeated the crowd. After the rally, the crowd marched inside the station and distributed “Know your rights” information to passengers and drivers preparing to board Greyhound and local buses. Marchers chanted, “Ice off the bus! ICE out of NY!” These words resonated throughout the route of march, especially when people passed an incoming Greyhound bus. People are ready to keep demanding “ICE off the Buses!” because they believe in the campaign — and that people’s power will win. They are ready for the next action.
The demonstration received overwhelming support from passengers and drivers inside the station, as the demonstrators rallied around the slogan, “Buses are for transportation, not deportation!” There was a great response from the primarily in/migrant community residing around the station in Washington Heights.
International Workers’ Solidarity Network protests
In Buffalo, N.Y., protesters gathered outside the Greyhound station to demand safe travel for refugees and im/migrants and an end to ICE’s collaboration with Greyhound. Many passersby stopped to talk, expressing agreement with protesters and asking how they can help with the campaign. The International Workers’ Solidarity Network/Buffalo called for the action, which was supported by activists from Queen City Socialists and Industrial Workers of the World.
The International Workers’ Solidarity Network/Philadelphia held an informational picket line and speakout outside the Greyhound Bus Terminal in Center City. There, they distributed fliers advising bus riders that they had the right to not cooperate with ICE agents. For over an hour demonstrators denounced Greyhound for cooperating with ICE’s illegal practice of boarding buses and searching passengers without warrants. Speakers stressed that Greyhound drivers and other workers are not to blame.
Many people coming in and out of the bus station stopped to ask what the protest was about and welcomed an informational flier. Several people stayed to listen to speakers, and some even joined the picket line. One older Black worker took a pile of placards displaying pictures of im/migrants who died in ICE custody to show to a friend in the station. When he returned, he explained that the pictures clarified that this was a matter of life and death. Five hundred fliers were distributed in an hour, and they were well-received. Channel 10 news/Telemundo, a local English/Spanish news station, covered the event.
A modest but strong rally was held at the Durham, N.C., Greyhound station. Participants included members of the Temporary Protected Status Committee, Extinction Rebellion, FIRE and the Durham Workers Assembly. Also joining was Miguel Staten whose nephew, DeAndre Ballard, was killed by security guards. Duke University students were there. When demonstrators refused to leave for the first hour, Greyhound officials repeatedly sent their goons to chase them out. The activists responded by staying on the sidewalk on Greyhound property for another hour.
An action was held in Atlanta at the Greyhound station, a very small facility in a distressed area downtown near the Atlanta Immigration Court and the now-closed Atlanta City Detention Center. As activists distributed a “Know-your-rights” flier, a concerned Greyhound driver asked them what to do if ICE stops her bus. She promised to share the leaflet with other drivers.
Greyhound security officers claimed protesters couldn’t picket on the sidewalk because it was company property. They threatened to call the police. The activists responded that they had a right to pass out information about the company’s policies and suggested that Greyhound ask the police to bring the city ordinance that gives the company a public sidewalk. The Greyhound cops went back inside, and no city cops arrived at the scene.
Houston FIRE confronts Greyhound
Greyhound was expecting activists as the FIRE (Fight for Im/migrants and Refugees Everywhere) protest gathered at the downtown Houston bus station on Oct. 27. The company’s security was tight, so activists were not able to get inside the building to distribute fliers to travelers. Police were called but left after they realized FIRE was legally protesting, leafleting and using a bullhorn. Every passenger who entered or exited the station heard the message: “Border Patrol off Greyhound Buses Now!” The station’s front doors were open, so the chants reverberated inside for all to hear.
Many passengers expressed surprise that Greyhound allowed Border Patrol agents to enter their buses to ask for documents and to arrest passengers who could not quickly prove they were in the U.S. legally. A man who was from Italy was surprised that a company would treat their clients so disrespectfully. An elderly woman told FIRE activists that since Greyhound “doesn’t like Hispanics, I’m going across the street to the other bus company.” FIRE members vowed to return to the station to continue pressuring Greyhound to provide transportation and not allow deportations from their buses.
In Oakland, Calif., a small but mighty demonstration took place in front of the Greyhound bus station to demand “Get ICE off your buses!” Participants included members of the Task Force on the Americas, FIRE, Alameda County Peace and Freedom Party, East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, Democratic Socialists of America, Jewish Voice for Peace, Workers World Party, and Communist Workers League/Bay Area. Some retired unionists participated, as did an East Bay Latino poet and activist from Xochipilli, Latino Men’s Circle. Greyhound sent security guards to make sure demonstrators were not blocking entrances. They weren’t.
The action received a great response from people about to catch a Greyhound bus. Everyone was outraged about what Greyhound is doing. One Oakland resident said he had recently been in El Paso, Texas, where Border Patrol agents stopped the bus he was on and harassed people about their papers. The local Latinx station Telemundo and Fox channel KTVU covered the protest.
Workers World Party staged a demonstration at Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, Ore., calling attention to the collaboration between ICE and Greyhound. Participants denounced the racist war on im/migrants and the imperialist-created im/migrant crisis. The protest built on previous actions, including a demonstration at the Portland Greyhound terminal several weeks ago. Activists vow to continue agitating on this issue for as long as needed to combat the ongoing war on migrants. The demonstration was part of the national day of action.
Nathaniel Chase, Siddika Degia, Ellie Dorritie, Judy Greenspan, Joshua Hanks, Dianne Mathiowetz, Betsey Piette, Gloria Rubac and Dante Strobino contributed to this article.