St-Joseph Migrant Worker Violently Accosted at Agricultural Workers’ Mass at St. Joseph’s Oratory

– For Immediate Release- Montreal, July 17 2012- Migrant worker and activist Noe Arteaga Santos was violently accosted and detained during a mass held for seasonal agricultural workers at St.Joseph’s Oratory. Arteaga Santos had been present at the mass alongside members of Dignidad Migrante, Mexicans United for Regularization, and the Immigrant Workers Centre as part of a press conference held to raise awareness regarding the implications of the recent Bill C-38 where migrant worker access to Employment Insurance benefits are concerned.

When migrant workers themselves were invited on-stage to speak to their experiences of migration, Arteaga Santos had approached the altar to request permission to speak. Although he initially secured the assent of priest, when he began to discuss his experiences of exploitation, he was quickly interrupted by the event organizers and asked to step down. When he persisted in addressing the audience, members of the church security team seized his arms and forcibly dragged him off-stage. Despite not being under arrest, he was then detained in a back room while church security officers conferred with the police. At no time was he permitted to speak with friends and comrades, nor was he granted access to a lawyer before being subjected to questioning by the police.

“Church security was seeking to have me arrested for ‘disturbing the peace’, claiming that I spoke without seeking permission and did so in a private space”, Arteaga Santos explained. “They also told me that they took issue with my ‘politicizing’ the event” he continued, noting that guards had cited his wearing of a red square in solidarity with the student strike as a justification for his detention. Arteaga Santos was released approximately one hour later. Although no charges were laid, he sustained severe bruising to both of his arms as a result of his mistreatment at the hands of church security guards. “It is shocking and unacceptable that such an incident should take place at an event that is supposedly held in support of migrant workers”, said Arteaga Santos. “I believe it speaks to the extent to which migrant workers are singled out for repression when they speak out about the exploitation they face in the workplace”.

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Source: The Immigrant Workers Centre