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Supporters rally for ICE detainees who went on hunger strike

Demonstrators gathered outside the Suffolk County House of Corrections Thursday night.
Demonstrators gathered outside the Suffolk County House of Corrections Thursday night.(Andrew Stanton/for the Boston Globe)

Music blasted, drums banged, and chants echoed outside the Suffolk County House of Corrections Thursday night as about 30 people rallied in support of ICE detainees who held a hunger strike to protest their conditions.

“You are not alone,” they shouted to the detainees, who acknowledged the chants by flicking lights and waving in their windows. “Let them go home.”

Standing at the side of the Massachusetts Avenue Connector, they carried signs that read “Shut down ICE,” “Nobody is illegal,” and “Solidarity with Unit 8-2.”

Brick by brick, wall by wall, this whole system’s got to fall,” they chanted over the din of traffic.

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One participant said she hopes the detainees know they have public support.

“If they can see us, I think we’ve done some good here,” Leah Shorb said.

Dozens of people detained by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) started the hunger strike last Friday. But they ended it Wednesday, after threats of transfers and some strikers were put in solitary confinement, said Arely Diaz, an organizer with the Fang Collective, an advocacy group that organized the demonstration.

Diaz said 72 detainees from a specific unit at the jail went on the hunger strike. She said six to eight of the strikers were placed in solitary confinement.

“They were demanding better conditions,” she said during a phone interview prior to the two hour demonstration.

Diaz pointed to a letter that listed off grievances, such as bad food, lack of hot water in sinks, and stretches of the day when there is one bathroom for 70 people.

Messages left with the Suffolk sheriff’s department, which operates the jail, were not returned Thursday night.

Diaz said the demonstrators were trying to show the sheriff’s department they support the detainees.

“We want to make sure that we’re out here for them,” Diaz said. “And that they are able to see us.”

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Danny McDonald of the Globe Staff contributed to this story. Andrew Stanton can be reached at andrew.stanton@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @_andrewstanton.