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Protest demands New Hope fire cop who questioned Ariel Vences-Lopez’s immigration status on public transit

Fight is on to stop his deportation
By staff |
June 13, 2017
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New Hope, MN - Protesters packed the June 12 city council work session in New Hope, a suburb of Minneapolis, to demand that the city fire police officer Andy Lamers. Until recently, in addition to his job in New Hope, Lamers also had a part-time job as a police officer with Metro Transit, which operates public transit in the Twin Cities area.

However, Lamers was forced to resign from Metro Transit Police when a video of him surfaced in which he questioned a light rail passenger about his immigration status asking, "Are you here illegally?" The action in New Hope, called for by Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB), asserted Lamers’ resignation from Metro Transit Police was not enough, that officers who blatantly racially profile people shouldn’t be police officers anywhere.

The incident prompting the protest occurred on May 14 and gained national attention after a video posted to Facebook went viral. In the video, officer Lamers can be seen asking a light rail passenger, later identified as Ariel Vences-Lopez, “Are you here illegally?” during what appears to be a routine fare check.

After protesters spoke out forcefully at the May 24 Met Council meeting and forced the authorities to come clean with the whole story, it became clear that after the video snippet showing officer Lamers questioning Vences-Lopez ended, he was then removed from the train, tased and arrested under suspicion of committing fare evasion and obstructing an officer. When Vences-Lopez was in custody at the Hennepin County Jail, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) put a hold on him, after which he was transferred to ICE for deportation. Since finding out ICE had Vences-Lopez, immigrant rights activists and lawyers have scrambled to try to stop his deportation while also campaigning to end Metro Transit police’s relationship with immigration enforcement and holding the officer in question accountable.

Organizers next plan to attend and speak at the June 14 meeting of the Metropolitan Council. The speak-out, called by the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAC) will demand that Metro Transit police officers stop carrying out immigration enforcement on trains and buses, and that they stop cooperation with ICE and the Department of Homeland Security on trains and buses.