Hundreds of protesters block immigration van, forcing Scottish officials to release men detained in raid

Hundreds of residents of Glasgow, Scotland, poured into the streets Thursday morning to block the path of a van that held two men detained in an immigration raid, eventually forcing officials to let the men go.

"I'm so happy that my fate brought me to live here in Glasgow, where the people are so connected that they'll come out onto the streets to help one of their own," Lakhvir Singh, one of the two Indian nationals swept up in the raid, told ITV after his release.

The show of solidarity came after officials from the United Kingdom's Home Office, which handles immigration matters, showed up at the two men's apartment building early Thursday and took them into custody. Word soon spread through the south Glasgow neighborhood, angering residents who pointed out that the raid took place during the Eid al-Fitr holiday in a community with a large Muslim population.

"I'd ask Christians to reflect on what it would feel like to have your house raided on Christmas Day," one protester who asked to be identified only as Tom told Sky News.

By midmorning Thursday, some 200 people had joined the protest, according to the Guardian. Video footage showed the Home Office van trapped as demonstrators packed the city street, chanting: "These are our neighbors! Let them go!" One protester lay down under the van to prevent it from driving off.

The mass protest resembled similar actions that took place in the United States during the Trump administration, when community members and activists sought to block Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials from carrying out deportations and raids.

The standoff in Glasgow continued for hours, with a phalanx of police officers guarding the van. Around 5 p.m., the van's doors opened and the men stepped out, thanking the cheering crowd.

"They messed with the wrong city," activist Pinar Aksu told the Guardian.

The decision to release the men was made by Scotland's chief superintendent of police "in order to protect the safety, public health and well-being of all people involved in the detention and subsequent protest," police said in a statement.

The Home Office, meanwhile, told the BBC that it "continues to tackle illegal migration in all its forms."

Scottish leaders including First Minister Nicola Sturgeon have denounced the attempted raid and criticized Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government for its plan to ramp up immigration enforcement and speed up deportations.

"Doing this on Eid, in the heart of our Muslim community, and in the midst of a serious Covid outbreak was staggeringly irresponsible - but the even deeper problem is an appalling asylum & immigration policy," Sturgeon tweeted Thursday.

The two men detained Thursday were both Indian nationals in their 30s who have lived in the U.K. for 10 years without legal status, ITV reported. Singh works as a mechanic, and the other detainee, Sumit Sehdev, works as a chef.