The Miami Femmes can't afford to strike today—so they're protesting ICE tonight

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The so-called “resistance” to Donald Trump’s administration has been growing since the day of his inauguration, taking on anything from LGBTQ rights and immigration policy to health care, racial justice, prison reform, and imperialist foreign policy. In our Front Lines series, Fusion speaks to activists leading the charge in all kinds of ways.

On Wednesday March 8, women are joining rallies and strikes across the globe in honor of International Women’s Day. They’re closing businesses, withholding unpaid labor, refusing to shop, and gathering in the streets to renounce, among a raft of other injustices, violence against women, backwards reproductive legislation, and anti-immigrant legislation.


The resistance is global in scope, but directed towards local issues. In Argentina, women march against domestic violence; in Ireland they’re striking against an abortion ban. And in the Miami-Dade area, where more than half of residents are immigrants and lawmakers just weeks ago voted to end the county’s sanctuary status, the focal point of International Women’s Day is on ICE.

In the morning, the Miami Worker’s Center staged a rally outside of the local immigration field office. In the evening, 22-year-old Audrey Aradanas and 26-year-old Megan Shade of the Miami Femme Coalition have organized a march for people, like them, who are unable to take time off the job. (Megan works in retail, Audrey at a non-profit.) They took a moment out from work to speak to me about the importance of solidarity between grassroots organizations, their “family” of activists that has grown over the last year, and why they’re focusing on immigration on International Women’s Day.


Tell me about Miami Femmes Coalition.

Megan: We're a newly forming organization—this is our first event ever. We're organizing the International Women’s Strike in Miami, a day of resistance. It's a march-slash-protest, happening downtown.

We'll be marching through the streets of Miami, stopping at particular locations and speaking about individual issues. We'll have a speaker who'll talk about anti-imperialist feminism, and women in the workplace. Someone’s talking about environmental justice, sexual assault, domestic violence, indigenous issues.

Audrey: The first stop is government center. That’s where officials said that we’re not a sanctuary county. We’re stopping at Freedom Tower—it’s not exactly the same, but it’s similar to Ellis Island in New York, where we’ll talk about immigrant justice.


You guys have known each other for awhile, right? How did the coalition come about?


Audrey: I started getting into activism in high school, but I didn't start organizing until I was a student at FIU [where I met Megan]. I became an activist because of the various experiences in my life: seeing my then-neighborhood, Brickell being gentrified, feeling the experiences of my parents as Asian-Hispanic immigrants, going through my own experiences as a sexual assault survivor. It also became clear to me as I met and talked with people that they too weren’t allowed to sit at this table, this system but because they have these other intersections that I don't necessarily have.

Megan: I worked with the Anti-Trump Action Committee, and we’ve been putting on similar protests in Miami. But this is mainly people I’ve worked with, folks that I know—it’s like a little family.


What’s specific to doing this work in the Miami area?

Audrey: Here in Miami we’re an interesting case. Our most important demand is having Miami-Dade as a sanctuary county. The commissioner and mayor said we were never a sanctuary area. But they and their parents came here. When we think about the influx of Cubans in Miami, is this place not a sanctuary for them?


Certain individuals don’t play by the rules that they, themselves, have created. And environmental justice is key, too: Sea level rise is a big thing here, and that affects affordable housing here. It’s all connected. Another important thing is indigenous rights. What this country has done to indigenous people is not okay. So that’s another important thing, that we need to talk about.


Megan: Declaring Miami-Dade a sanctuary county is imperative, especially with the new policies that are coming up—and how that shows up in the Miami community. I have friends who tell me, “Oh, there’s an ICE raid on this street, everyone watch out.” No one should have to live in that kind of fear. For me, reproductive justice is where I’ve been most active. But anything dealing with immigration right now has to be one of the core issues. Especially in the diverse community of Miami.

There’s been a lot of conversation about who can afford to strike, and how. What’s your take on that?


Megan: It's a privilege to be able to call out and go back. That's why we put it in the evening. For me that was definitely an issue. There was no way I could walk out of my job [at Forever 21] and still have one. That’s how I sustain myself. And so while I fully support and endorse labor striking, I also wanted to create a physical event that people could attend that wouldn't interfere with their work schedule. So I was like, “Okay, let's do a protest, let's get people in the streets.” Rather than letting the labor strike be the only kind of protest that you can participate in.

Audrey: I’m wearing red right now, but I’m not actively participating in the strike, mainly because I can’t. We’re going to stand up at work and talk about the importance of celebrating women, and talking about why we’re doing this today.
But we want to make sure we highlight the Miami Workers Center too—they’re doing a lot of things today. We’re fairly new, but we need to uplift grassroots organizations who’ve been doing the work for a long time.