A Chicago area chamber of commerce sparked controversy Tuesday after pictures and video taken at an event it organized showed children hitting a piñata fashioned to look like an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer.
East Side Community Day, a mid-July event hosted by the East Side Chamber of Commerce, was supposed to be a fun and family-oriented activity, organizers told CBS 2.
But a local Chicano activist who is part of the group that brought the piñata to the event said his organization introduced a political dimension to East Side Community Day.
Anthony Martinez, a member of Los Brown Berets, told CBS 2 his organization was “just making a statement” in response to the Trump administration’s controversial handling of migrant children detained at the U.S.-Mexico border.
He insisted, however, that the gesture was “not meant in a negative way at all towards law enforcement.”
Martinez told CBS 2 that his group purchased a Batman piñata and shaped it to look like an ICE officer for the event, where children were also encouraged to throw balls at a painted image of President Donald Trump.
“Some parents were holding their kids to hit the piñata,” Martinez said.
Marvin Covington of the East Side Chamber of Commerce said he wasn’t aware the piñata would be present at the celebration.
“It wasn’t told to me, ‘Hey, there’s going to be an ICE piñata coming, but it was there,” Covington said. “And it affected the event, and that’s OK.”
Various commenters on social media decried the activity.
“Two wrongs do not make a right. People are feeding this kind of mentality to our kids and it is disgusting,” tweeted one commenter.
Disgusting displays of violence towards law enforcement.
— Nancy Fal (@NancyFal29) July 24, 2019
Covington told CBS 2 that despite the controversy over the ICE piñata, he believes the event was a success.
The ICE piñata amid a broader battle over immigration policy
Tensions surrounding the immigration debate, particularly with regard to immigration authorities’ treatment of detained migrants, have flared in recent months.
The conversation has split largely among partisan lines, with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez emerging as one of the loudest voices condemning the president’s handling of the border crisis.
The media darling and Democrat party star has likened detention facilities at the border to Nazi concentration camps and championed the abolition of the Department of Homeland Security. DHS has overseen immigration enforcement agencies, including ICE, since it was created in 2002 under President George W. Bush.