In court, Vermont teen defends arrest at Williston ‘Abolish ICE’ protest


Two Vermont minors appeared in court Thursday on disorderly conduct charges, stemming from an ‘abolish ICE’ protest in July.

Gertie Siegel, who was one of 11 people arrested at the Williston rally, said she did “not make” a mistake by helping the group of protesters block a road. Siegel, who is 14, said she was arrested “on purpose.”

“Making drivers turn around is most definitely not even close to as atrocious as tricking parents into signing away the custody of their kids,” she said.

Siegel and her mother, Rachel Siegel, who were among about 100 Vermonters who rallied outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Offices in Williston on July 28. The activists are calling for the abolishment of ICE and its practices.

“We certainly sat in the road and blocked traffic, and that is against the law, but we feel guilty about nothing because we are following a higher code,” said Rachel Siegel, who is director of the Peace and Justice Center in Burlington

Rachel Siegel was holding Gertie’s hand the day of the protest. She recalled a year when she and her daughter were separated.

“I knew where she was and I knew she was safe… But the thought of having a more dramatic experience of separation than that devastated me,” she said.

Vermont’s ACLU chapter is standing by the protesters.

“What this administration has done with respect of immigration enforcement is abhorrent, is fueled by entirely new levels of bigotry, cruelty, intolerance and racism,” said Lia Ernst, ACLU staff attorney.

After Thursday’s hearing in Burlington, Gertie told reporters she pleaded not guilty and encouraged others to join the cause.

“You can educate yourselves, sign petitions, write letters, to your government representatives and even show up to protests without risking arrest,” she said.

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