Anti-ICE, Pro-ICE Protests Will Collide at GEO Detention Facility September 21

The July 12 protest aimed to call attention to ICE and conditions in immigrant detention centers.
The July 12 protest aimed to call attention to ICE and conditions in immigrant detention centers. Erin McCarley
The GEO immigrant detention facility in Aurora will see its fair share of protesters on Saturday, September 21. But not everyone will be on the same side.

Anti-Immigration and Customs Enforcement organizers are planning a rally that will start in Denver's City Park and finish at the detention facility in Aurora. A pro-ICE contingent that will include prominent local media personalities is planning its own demonstration at the facility that day.

"In 2040, this will be a minority-majority nation. I think that strikes fear into individuals in just feeling like America is equated to white and that there’s a loss of what America is and that it becomes more of a brown nation," says Armando Martín, one of the organizers with Enough Action Coalition, the group behind the anti-ICE protest.

The pro-ICE demonstrators say they're standing in solidarity with law enforcement. "Come out and show the nation that Colorado supports the rule of law," Randy Corporon, a local conservative talk-show host, wrote on the event's Facebook page.

But some organizers have also expressed anti-immigrant views. Michelle Malkin, a Colorado Springs-based conservative author who is prominent on social media and is organizing the event with Corporon, recently published a book that claims "globalist elites, Silicon Valley, and the radical Left are conspiring to undo the rule of law, subvert our homeland security, shut down free speech, and make gobs of money off the backs of illegal aliens, refugees, and low-wage guest workers." Neither Corporon nor Malkin responded to interview requests for this story.

The controversial immigrant detention facility in Aurora, which is run by private prison company GEO Group through a contract with ICE, has been plagued by allegations of medical neglect and sub-standard living conditions, issues being investigated by local members of Congress.

On July 12, when more than a thousand anti-ICE protesters rallied outside the detention facility, a handful of protesters took down the flags waving above the facility, including an American one, and replaced them with a Mexican flag and anti-law enforcement flags. The imagery of the Mexican flag waving above the Aurora detention facility generated headlines in conservative media outlets across the country and led Dave Gruber, an Aurora city councilman, to publicly rebuke three members of Aurora City Council who were at the protest.

On September 2, pro-ICE demonstrators, rallied by Malkin, Corporon and other conservative media personalties, gathered at the detention facility to praise ICE. Patrick Neville, a high-ranking Republican in the state legislature, and Kristi Burton Brown, the vice chairwoman of the Colorado GOP, were also present. Local community organizer and Denver School Board candidate Tay Anderson used the siren on a megaphone to disrupt the speeches at the pro-ICE rally.

The September 21 anti-ICE protest will be preceded by a demonstration on September 19 outside the Aurora home of Johnny Choate, the warden of the GEO facility. The Sentinel, the daily newspaper of Aurora, penned an editorial on September 13 accusing organizers of "menacing, terrorizing harassment" and implored them to call off the action. GEO Group has also publicly called out activists for the protest planned outside of Choate's home. "These misdirected attacks and intimidation of our employees must stop," Pablo Paez, a GEO vice president, said in a statement. Organizers of the protest previously told Westword that it will be a peaceful demonstration.

The September 21 event has divided some talk-show hosts at KNUS 710. Peter Boyles, a host on the conservative network, is telling listeners not to attend the counter demonstration, in the belief that a fight could break out between the two sides. "If you don’t give oxygen to a fire, the fire goes out," Boyles says.

But Martin is saying the protest he's organizing isn't meant to divide.

"We're not blaming people," he says. "We’re simply saying we had enough and enjoying this march for justice."
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.