Protesters gather outside Phoenix ICE headquarters in response to claims of unwanted surgeries by female detainees

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Jason White

Protesters walk down Central Ave into oncoming traffic with an upside-down American flag, the universal symbol for distress or great danger.

Ivana Venema-Nunez , Reporter

On Sunday, protesters gathered in front of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Phoenix after the recent complaints of Dawn Cooter, a whistleblower and nurse, who claims several women told her that they were subjected to unwanted hysterectomies while being detained.

According to the New York Times, the complaint alleges unwanted medical procedures by a physician at the Irwin County Detention Center, which is run by LaSalle Corrections, a private company, in Ocilla, Ga.

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security launched an investigation into the whistleblower complaint.

In response, a group of approximately 20 demonstrators gathered outside ICE headquarters on Sunday and locked arms, blocking about half of Central Avenue, when five Phoenix Police officers, dressed in casual wear, approached to command the protesters to stay on the sidewalk.

Chants of “Abolish ICE” and “No Justice No Peace” rung out as they complied to the officers command and returned to the sidewalk after about ten minutes.

“People really care, people really care to be out here, people are really hurt and want to make a difference and it feels like the traditional routes aren’t very efficient,” a medic, who is neutral but supports the group’s right to protest, told Northeast Valley News.

According to AZ Central, this protest was not organized by a specific individual, but rather by friends that met at previous protests over the summer and have organized other demonstrations using group chats.

Liberty Nielson, one of the group who helped plan the protest, told AZ Central that thinking about what the women must have gone through, recovering from invasive surgeries in the detention center during a pandemic, drove her to speak out.

“Without all of these protests, nothing would change,” said Nielsen. “If we didn’t care about America, we wouldn’t be out here.”

After protesters walked around the block, they spoke with the same officers who had asked them to return to the sidewalk to ensure no arrests would be made after the protest had concluded.  The officers said they would not follow anyone home and according to AZ Central Phoenix Police confirmed there were no arrests associated with the protest as of Sunday afternoon.