This woman stood up to stop a deportation. This is human rights activism done right.

Elin Errson heard a man was being deported back to Afghanistan from Sweden. She wasn't going to let that happen.  

On July 23, Errson did the only thing she thought she could do: She bought a ticket for his flight and protested.

The 21-year-old Swede knew the pilot could not take off without all passengers seated. So she refused to sit down on the plane to halt the man's deportation, even if it meant facing fines or jail time. Errson live-streamed her protest.


Standing Up Against Deportation

Because an Afghan was supposed to be deported on a flight to Istanbul, activist Elin Ersson refused to sit down. What happens in the next minutes shakes everyone on board…

Posted by DW Stories on Tuesday, July 24, 2018

"I want him to get off the plane because he is not safe in Afghanistan," she said in her live-stream. "I am trying to change my country's rules. I don't like them. It is not right to send people to hell."

At first, other passengers and crew members were aggravated with her refusal to sit down. Some attempted to take her phone away, but she didn't let that deter her. She kept standing and kept live-streaming.

Other passengers joined her in protest after their initial hesitation. And soon enough, Errson and the asylum-seeker were removed from the plane, with passengers — and the world — applauding.

Errson's act of defiance illustrates just one of the many radical ways ordinary people can engage in human rights activism.

There's often this misconception that direct action with issues like immigration or international conflict requires a mass movement of people. But sometimes, you only need a handful of people — or even one person — to make a significant impact for good. Errson's plane protest is a great example.

In the past few years, we've seen more examples of smaller-scale direct actions against deportation proceedings. There's been an effective trend of activists blocking ICE buses filled with undocumented immigrants facing deportation.

In 2013, a group of activists chained themselves to the tires of a bus — but they didn't stop there. Some went to the courthouse and chained themselves to the entrance. Why? They wanted to prevent authorities from processing deportation orders and jail sentences for undocumented immigrants.

In June, another group of protesters fighting President Donald Trump's family separation policy attempted to block a bus full of migrant kids from crossing the border.

This summer, IfNotNow — a progressive Jewish American group — are asking Birthright Israel participants to speak up on during their tours and question the organization's erasure of Palestinians. One did so successfully. Some are even heading to airports to meet with Birthright Israel participants and give them educational materials about Israel's occupation of Palestine.

Now more than ever, it's imperative for people to take a stand.

Direct action might seem daunting. It's easier to go with the flow and ignore the harsh realities others face around us. Nobody wants to be uncomfortable, but sometimes discomfort is needed to bring about positive social change.

But Errson's words in her live-stream ring true: "What is more important, a life or your time?"

Sure, preventing a plane from taking off or blocking people from entering a courthouse can be an inconvenience for both activists and bystanders, but that shouldn't matter. In lot of these situations, like this one, it could be a matter of life or death for a vulnerable person.

It's up to each of us to decide which side we want to be on.

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In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

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Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

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Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

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Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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