Six people protesting the state’s controversial immigration law were led away and detained Thursday morning after a sit-down protest near the Alabama Senate chamber.
The protesters prayed and sang “Amazing Grace” and “This Light of Mine,” and called for the repeal of the controversial law before being led to a separate room in the Alabama State House. Two senators knelt and prayed with the protesters, but were not detained.
The six were released later in the day.
Rev. Angela Wright, pastor of Beloved Community United Church of Christ in Birmingham, identified the protesters as the Rev. Fred Hammond of Tuscaloosa; Clemencia Robledo of Tuscaloosa; Hope Hamilton Schumacher of Birmingham; John Estes of Birmingham; Salvadore Cervantes of Montgomery and Drew Statham of Birmingham. Wright said they were members of Alabama’s Conscience, a group seeking repeal of the law, known as HB 56.
The protesters wore white T-shirts with “Repeal Alabama’s Pain” written in red. Schumacher called “For all mothers separated from their children,” as security came by. Schumacher brought her baby with her to protest; the child was given to another member in the crowd before Schumacher was arrested.
“Stop the pain of Alabama,” Cervantes said while being detained.
Pat Harris, the secretary of the Senate who presides over the daily operations of the chamber, said those who were handcuffed were not arrested and that no charges were pressed. He said they were handcuffed initially after they blocked the walkways outside of the Senate chamber and that, after they had been asked to move out of the aisle, some began to assemble again in the walkway. Harris said the protesters were taken downstairs and he discussed the incident with security.
“We made the decision not to press any charges,” Harris said
The Senate is expected to consider changes to the law that passed the House last month. A date has not been set. Opponents have called for the repeal of the law, and have increased demonstrations and protests at the State House in recent weeks.
“The purpose was twofold,” Wright said. “One purpose was to express moral outrage and opposition to HB 56, Alabama’s inhumane immigration law, and secondly to challenge the Senate to take action and to move through their fear of standing up to the opposition they face.”
Sens. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro and Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, knelt and prayed with the six as they were led away by Capitol Police. Singleton demanded the police take them away as well.
“They have a right for their voices to be heard,” Singleton said. Neither man was detained.
Both Singleton and Ross want to see the law repealed. Ross said the law was destructive.
“We need to be thinking about keeping families together,” he said. “We don’t need to destroy families.”