City Councilman Jumaane Williams said he was going to trial on Tuesday following his arrest while protesting ICE’s detainment of an immigrant rights leader because he felt it was a risk he has to take.
Williams, along with 17 other people — including fellow councilman Ydanis Rodriguez — were arrested Jan. 11 while protesting the arrest of Ravi Ragbir, the executive director of the faith-based immigrant rights group New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City.
Others arrested accepted adjournments in contemplation of dismissal, and in February, Rodriguez pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and other offenses he was initially charged with (obstructing an emergency medical service, reckless endangerment and resisting arrest) were dropped.
“I’ve always said the more privilege you have, the more risk you have to take,” Williams said. “I thought it was important that someone step forward and say ‘we’re going to have our day in court with this issue,’ particularly because Ravi was an immigrant leader that was targeted and they were basically kidnapping him.”
Ragbir, originally from Trinidad, was detained on Jan. 11 after he showed up for a check-in with ICE. He had obtained a green card in 1994 but was ordered deported in 2006 over a 2001 wire fraud conviction. But on Jan. 29, a judge ordered his release, and he was later granted a stay of deportation.
To protest the detainment, Williams, Rodriguez and other protesters stood in the road trying to stop the ambulance Ragbir was being taken away in. At the time, Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, accused the elected officials of “showmanship,” saying the protest was “in order to raise their own profile.”
Williams, who is now running for lieutenant governor, was charged with two misdemeanors and one violation of obstruction of governmental administration, obstructing emergency medical services and disorderly conduct. His trial was expected to start on Tuesday.
If convicted, Williams faces up to 1 year in prison.
“A day in jail is not a joke,” he said. “But I think the worst that can happen is people can be illegally kidnapped by the government. That has to be stopped.”
His attorney, Ron Kuby, said Williams will argue there was justification of necessity, “that under these circumstances Mr. Williams had not just the legal right but also a moral obligation to do everything that he possibly could to stop what we now know was an unlawful arrest and an illegal deportation.”
Kuby said it was important for at least one person to go to trial following the arrests.
“We needed one, we didn’t need everybody,” he said.