A coalition of NJ-based community organizations demonstrated in Newark on October 4 in advocacy of freedom for foreign-born people imprisoned by ICE. Activists called the gathering “The People’s Gala” to contrast their advocacy with that of the concurrent annual Spotlight Gala being held inside.  

The coalition, made up of American Friends Service Committee, Newark Water Coalition, Movimento Cosecha, The New Black Panther Party and North NJ Democratic Socialists of America, chose to protest outside the gala because of one of NJ PAC’s board members, Anne Evans Estabrook profits from the caging and family separation people who moved to the U.S. from other countries, especially black and brown people. She is the owner of Elberon Development Group, which leases the Elizabeth Detention Center to CoreCivic, which then leases the jail to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Brick City Mutual Aid provided masks, gloves, cookies, candy, and coffee. Several musicians performed while other activists spoke on the issue. Signs reading “End immigrant detention & mass incarceration,” “NJ PAC upholds mass incarceration! No to Ice profiteers!”, with hashtags for #AbolishICE, #DefundPolice, and #FreeThemAll were raised, as were chants for “Free them all,” among other expressions of abolition.  

The Spotlight Gala honored Gov. Phil Murphy and former Gov. Tom Kean for their “commitment to NJPAC, Newark and the Arts,” according to the organization’s website. Gov. Murphy, who was honored at the gala, has presided over the highest Covid-19 prison death rate in the country. Former Gov. Tom Kean, who was governor from 1982 to 1990, saw in Newark increased unemployment rates, lower high school graduation rates, and an increase in violent crime rates during his tenure, according to U.S. Census data and FBI statistics. The city now has the highest proportion of renters in the country among medium to large-sized cities.