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Asylum Seekers Refuse to Leave Manhattan Hotel, Citing Inhumane Conditions at Brooklyn Shelter

Written by on 01/02/2023

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: In New York, dozens of asylum seekers continued a peaceful demonstration Monday outside a Manhattan hotel where they’d been living for weeks, until city officials suddenly evicted them over the weekend to move them to a remote camp at a cruise terminal in Red Hook, Brooklyn. A warehouse facility has been filled with a thousand cots head to toe; asylum seekers said there’s no heat, no space for them to safely store their personal belongings. Dozens are sleeping on the sidewalk outside the Watson Hotel, pleading with the city to provide permanent and humane housing, as well as job permits so they can make a living.

Democracy Now!‘s María Taracena and Sonyi Lopez were on the ground as police barricaded the hotel and forced several asylum seekers to board buses to be taken to the new camp. Others refused to go. This is Ximena Bustamante, mutual aid organizer and founder of the Undocumented Women’s Fund.

XIMENA BUSTAMANTE: Many of them have already jobs in the area, and, you know, like, they have built community around here. … And actually, they cannot be forced, because there is in New York a right to shelter. However, there have been police called here to intimidate them, and they have stood their ground. They are camping outside.

AMY GOODMAN: Mutual aid organizers have rallied in solidarity with the asylum seekers and have vowed to fight the evictions. This is Yajaira Saavedra, co-founder of La Morada Mutual Aid Kitchen.

YAJAIRA SAAVEDRA: The police is obviously used to intimidate us. They wanted to conduct a sweep here. But we have a lot of mutual aid, a lot of people in solidarity who stopped the sweeps.

AMY GOODMAN: Iván, an asylum seeker from Venezuela, said he was assaulted Sunday night by a security guard working at the Watson Hotel.

IVÁN: [translated] I was filming the men who were being loaded onto buses. Several of us were filming them when a security guard, a staff member from the Watson Hotel, assaulted me. He tried to take my cellphone. When I tried to move it away from him, he punched me back here. He punched me really hard.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, another group of asylum seekers shared an exclusive video recording with Democracy Now! of a Watson Hotel staff member telling them the city is not giving them other options, and that the hotel had to be emptied out to carry out construction.

WATSON HOTEL STAFF MEMBER: [translated] The city is not giving you any more options. They want everything here to be emptied out because they have to demolish everything. They’re bringing construction crews.

AMY GOODMAN: New York officials are reportedly planning to use the hotel to house asylum-seeking families with children.

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