Nashville neighbors link arms to help man and 12-year-old avoid ICE, video shows

Neighbors in Nashville worked together for hours Monday to help a 12-year-old boy and a man avoid detention by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, according to witnesses and the Tennessee city’s mayor.

An ICE vehicle blocked the man and child inside their van outside their home in the Hermitage neighborhood in the morning, and then agents tried to take the man into custody on a detainer, WTVF reports. Nashville police said ICE agents called local officers to the scene for assistance around 7:20 a.m., though the agents did not say what help they needed, the Tennessean reports.

But as neighbors in the community found out what was happening, they rallied to help the neighbor avoid the ICE agents — and eventually, more than 10 assembled neighbors and activists linked arms to make room for the pair to return to the home, the Tennessean reports.

Daniel Ayoade Yoon, a local lawyer who went to help the family, told WTVF that “there were two immigration officials sort of bullying a family inside of their own vehicle, telling them that they had an administrative warrant, which isn’t the same thing as a judicial warrant, and trying to harass them ... into coming out.”

Bryan Cox, a spokesperson for ICE in Nashville, said the federal agents abandoned the scene to de-escalate tensions, according to the Tennessean. Nashville Mayor David Briley said the ICE agents left around 9:45 a.m., FOX 17 reports.

“Our police officers do not actively participate in immigration enforcement efforts and only serve as peacekeepers,” Briley said in a statement, according to the TV station “The officers were at the incident today to keep neighbors safe and secure a perimeter. I am keenly aware that this type of activity by our federal government stokes fear and distrust in our most vulnerable communities, which is why we do not use our local resources to enforce ICE orders.”

The attempted detention in Nashville comes about a week after President Donald Trump’s threat of weekend ICE raids in major cities across the U.S. largely failed to materialize, with no arrests reported in Los Angeles and failed arrest attempts reported in New York City, according to the Los Angeles Times. Mass arrests and deportations didn’t occur in Miami either, even as immigrant families hid in secret shelters fearing the promised raids, the Miami Herald reported.

Before helping the man and child make it back to the home in Nashville on Monday, neighbors did their best to make the van more comfortable for the family, WTVF reports.

“We made sure they had water, they had food, we put gas back in the vehicle when they were getting low just to make sure they were okay,” said neighbor Felishadae Young, according to the TV station.

Neighbors said they had seen an unmarked Ford F-150 truck circling the area for weeks before it turned on its flashing blue and red lights Monday, the Tennessean reports. Nashville police said ICE agents tried to pull over the man’s van, which was when it pulled into the driveway of the home, according to the newspaper.

Community members came outside when ICE agents and Nashville police showed up, the Nashville Scene reports.

“These people, they’ve been living there for 14 years,” neighbor Angela Glass said, according to the Scene. “They don’t bother anybody. Our kids play with their kids. It’s just one big community. And we don’t want to see anything happen to them. They’re good people. They’ve been here 14 years, leave them alone. To me, they’re considered Americans.”

Ayoade Yoon said ICE was misrepresenting its authority.

“They were saying, if you don’t come out, we’re going to arrest you, we’re going to arrest your 12-year-old son, and that’s just not legal, it’s not the right law,” Ayoade Yoon said, according to WTVF.

After ICE had left the scene, the family packed up their things in bags, got into some cars and drove away, Nashville Public Radio reports, adding that the man wanted by ICE was not identified by officials.

“We’re gonna be watching out now from this point on,” said Glass, one of the neighbors, according to the radio station, “because we won’t let this happen again.”

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.