There Are Now 750 People on Hunger Strike at the Northwest Detention Center

A rally today will determine whether the strike should continue.

The hunger strike at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma has grown to 750 people, NWDC Resistance said in a press release yesterday evening.

The group added that in “at least four pods, the people detained also called for a work stoppage, throwing the immigration prison’s functions into chaos.”

As Sara Bernard reported on Monday, the strike began at noon on Monday with 275 people participating. The ranks have quickly swelled.

NWDC says there will be a rally at noon today to determine “whether the hunger strike will continue.”

Here’s some background on the strike, as reported by Bernard:

The detainees’ demands, circulated on a handwritten letter Monday, echo those made during the NWDC hunger strikes in 2014, which lasted nearly two months at a time and drew national attention. They include: Expedited immigration hearings, improvements to what’s been called “inedible” food, more reasonable commissary prices (which were already high, but recently doubled, strikers say), improved access to medical care, and an increase in the $1-per-day wage for detainee labor (which is not always paid, either, they say; sometimes they’re given a bag of chips instead).

The plan is to refuse food for at least three days because Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “won’t recognize it as a hunger strike until they last 72 hours,” says Maru Mora Villalpando, one of the lead organizers of NWDC Resistance, a grassroots advocacy group that grew out of the 2014 hunger strikes.

As the group’s stated mission is to support the needs of those detained, volunteers rallied outside the facility Monday and plan to camp there until Wednesday. “We’re staying here the three days,” Villalpando adds, “not only because we want to know any directions from the people detained — what they want us to do — but we also want to witness if there’s any type of movement of GEO or ICE to retaliate.” (GEO Group, one of the largest private-prison companies in the nation, operates the NWDC.)

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