Occupy Oakland Protester Could be Deported
By Matt O’Brien
Posted: 11/15/2011 04:12:59 PM PST
Updated: 11/16/2011 04:46:20 AM PST
OAKLAND — The peaceful arrest of a meditating protester outside Oakland City Hall has become an iconic image of Monday’s eviction of the Occupy Oakland camp.
Now, Francisco “Pancho” Ramos Stierle could be deported, protesters and law enforcement officials say.
Federal agents put an immigration hold on the 36-year-old Oakland activist as he was detained in an Alameda County jail, said spokeswoman Virginia Kice of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Ramos Stierle, originally from Mexico City, was smiling and calm when Oakland police officers arrested him shortly before dawn Monday at the Frank H. Ogawa Plaza amphitheater.
He and two other protesters who sat beside him spent the predawn hours quietly meditating — eyes closed and legs crossed in a yoga-like pose — as helicopters buzzed overhead, riot police surrounded the camp and most other protesters evacuated the plaza.
As police officers lifted him up and handcuffed him, he slipped on his shoes and was escorted away. A photograph of the arrest appeared on the front page of this newspaper Tuesday morning. He was one of 32 people arrested in the camp.
Charged with refusing to disperse and loitering, he is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday on those misdemeanor charges in a county court.
At some point after he was booked, however, his fingerprints were run through the federal Secure Communities immigration database and federal agents flagged him as an immigrant
About 40 friends and supporters protested Tuesday afternoon outside the North County Jail in downtown Oakland to demand his release, although police records indicate that Ramos Stierle had been sent to the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin on Monday.
They formed a meditation circle amid signs declaring “Free Pancho!” Sheriff’s deputies in riot gear and holding shotguns guarded the jail from behind a window.
On the eve of the police raid, Occupy Oakland’s nightly general assembly voted 215-8, with 11 abstentions, to declare their camp a “sanctuary for all immigrants with or without papers.”
Some protesters cautiously objected, expressing concerns about calling the plaza a sanctuary if they had no power to prevent arrests.
It is routine now for police to transfer arrested immigrants to federal custody if they are living in the country illegally or commit a crime that makes them deportable. All Bay Area counties joined the Secure Communities fingerprint-sharing network last year. Friends believe that Ramos Stierle had been here on a student visa, but he dropped out of a UC Berkeley graduate program in 2008.
His friends also say Ramos Stierle was aware of the consequences of his arrest when he stayed in the plaza. “There was an intentionality to what he was doing,” said friend Randall Amster of Arizona. “He was attempting to bring peace to a space that had a lack of peace for the past couple weeks.”
Amster called his friend a “very strong nonviolent activist” and a “force of love” involved in causes ranging from nuclear disarmament and environmentalism to immigrant rights and nonviolence in Oakland’s Fruitvale district, where he lives.
“The Earth is but one country and the humankind its citizens,” Ramos Stierle told a high school classroom in Concord in 2006, according to a Contra Costa Times article about his visit.
Ramos Stierle identified himself at the time as a graduate astrophysics student at UC Berkeley.
He resigned from that program in 2008, in part because he did not want to be involved in a department that helped develop nuclear weaponry, said friend Carmen Anderson, who studied astrophysics as a UC Berkeley undergraduate when Ramos Stierle was there.
“He really is employed as a full-time citizen of the world,” Amster said. “That’s one of his mantras, and he definitely takes that seriously.”
Staff writers Thomas Peele, Matthias Gafni and Harry Harris contributed to this story.
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