Comparison photos courtesy Sanctuary DMV
Comparison photos courtesy Sanctuary DMV

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Mayor Muriel Bowser is drawing fire from immigrant rights advocates after photos of the annual Fiesta DC parade show one major addition and one major subtraction: The photos are now stamped with D.C.’s logo, but the immigrant rights activists who marched behind the mayor are missing. Or mostly missing—the victims of a sloppy photoshop job. activists upstaged the annual parade last weekend with large signs protesting the arrest and potential deportation of District resident Benjamín Ordoñez, who landed in ICE detention in Norfolk, Virginia after D.C. police arrested him for allegedly stealing $200 in a hotel lobby in August.

Last Saturday, Sept. 29, Bowser and other city officials paraded through the streets of D.C. for a celebration of Latino culture and diversity, but as the parade proceeded, activists with “Friends of Benjamin Ordóñez” and local immigrant rights group Sanctuary DMV cut in front of the lead float with posters of oversized human silhouettes, painted black with the word “DEPORTED” in red, styled after the D.C. flag.

In an interview with City Paper, activist James Ploeser says, “If we are sanctuary city, which is what the mayor claims, then we would work to close the loopholes that allow ICE to arrest and take away our friends and neighbors.”

But Susana Castillo, a spokesperson for Bowser, tells City Paper that while D.C. is a “Sanctuary City,” that designation can’t shield those who break the law. “Benjamín was arrested after he stole a purse and after MPD pulled him in they learned that he had a warrant, and after he was taken into custody he belonged to the U.S. Marshals who reported what they found to ICE. MPD doesn’t work with ICE,” she says.

Castillo says that Jackie Reyes, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Latino Affairs, removed the the protesters and their signs from the photo because it was on her personal social media account.

“The picture posted was not an official photo from the mayor’s office, the picture was on the personal Facebook page of director Jackie Reyes,” Castillo says. The photos do include the city’s logo.

The activists, for their part, see the photoshopped image as a part of a larger trend.

Andrea Molina, who is a friend of Ordóñez, says in a statement, “Dozens of our friends and neighbors being snatched up by ICE show that DC is nothing like the Sanctuary City the mayor claims. To the contrary, these cases expose a pattern of collusion between Bowser’s police department and ICE.”

Ayla Bailey, another one of Ordóñez’ friends, says in a statement: “While mayors across the country take bold action to defend residents from Trump’s xenophobic assault on our communities, Mayor Bowser has refused to even acknowledge that her constituents end up in ICE custody after interacting with MPD. Shame on her!”