From the July-August 2018 issue of News & Letters
‘Families Belong Together’—Chicago
Chicago—“Families Belong Together!” was the rallying cry for 60,000 people who protested in Chicago June 30. We knew it was going to be big when most of the passengers on the el train were headed for the rally, and one of them said she had seen the previous train jam-packed with protesters. The train operator, an African-American woman, surprised us by announcing not the next stop, but her feelings about the demonstrators. She said, “You are demonstrating even though the humidity makes the temperature feel over 100 degrees!” She expressed her dismay over Trump’s politics and thanked us profusely for protesting. Those in our car exploded with spontaneous applause, which we wished she could have heard.
Events were also held in over 700 other cities and towns across the U.S. and some in other countries. Despite sweltering heat, huge crowds gathered in Washington, D.C., New York City, Los Angeles and other cities, including big turnouts in border cities from Texas to California.
Many families came out in Chicago, of all different ages and races, most with handmade signs. Speakers included children of immigrants and mothers of detained children. It was clear that protesters were united in passionately opposing the separation of families at the border and the caging of children, and in the sense that the country is going in a horrific direction.
As Rachel, a 20-year-old college student, told News & Letters: “I came today because this has been happening too much in our country. I don’t agree with the idea of separating children from their families. If I were one of those children, I would have been terrified. Those children are no different than me; it doesn’t matter where they came from or what they look like, they are the same as any other child and should not be separated from their families. What Trump is doing is cruel and racist and I’m totally against this.”
Rachel’s friend, Lydia, said that she was at the demonstration because: “My boyfriend came here illegally when he was two years old, and if he had come now he might be sitting in a cage, which is frightening to him and to me. He is in total shock. I’m here for him and his family, some who came here illegally, and everyone else because this is just wrong! Every day my friend lives in fear that he is going to be taken away and that shouldn’t be the case. I’m worried for all these people.”
A young Black man, Taylor, told us: “I came here to protest against family separations and this really draconian policy against immigrants. I’m in opposition to the current system of capitalism and the way our government is set up, especially the current administration. Any protest against Trump is worth checking out. I talk to a lot of friends outside this country and they’re more aware of what the government is doing and not so much aware of the opposition. They think the opposition is only by radicals, but it also happens by people towards the center, it
is happening by all sorts of people. There are people fighting against this system that really care; we don’t
all just support everything our government does.”
After the rally at Daley Plaza, the crowd marched to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, where several set up tents, as has been done in Portland, Ore., and other cities.
‘Families belong together’—Rogers Park
Chicago—Hundreds of people marched in neighborhood immigrants’ rights protests here on June 23. The fact that protests like these are popping up from the grassroots all over the country reflects the breadth and depth of outrage over the Trump administration’s separation of children from their parents at the border.
In Rogers Park between 300 and 600 of us walked down Morse Avenue from the el stop and then up Clark Street to Touhy Park, a popular gathering place for people of all races, many of them Latinx, often engaged in soccer games. The support from pedestrians and drivers on Clark Street was overwhelming, with more friendly honking than I’ve ever seen at a protest.
Many people carried handmade signs, including “Zero tolerance for family separation,” “Only MONSTERS keep children in cages,” “We belong to each other / RISE UP defend the children,” “I really DO care, do you?” “Just following orders built Dachau,” and “Families. Together. Free. Resistencia y Libertad!”
Marchers were of all races and ages, from young children to elderly, including quite a few parents pushing strollers. The spirit was passionate and determined, and the event was energizing and restorative, preparing us for the citywide “Families Belong Together” march.
Battle Creek, Michigan, demonstrates!
Battle Creek, Mich.—I attended a demonstration downtown against Trump’s policy of separating refugee children from their parents at the (in)”justice center,” i.e., jail. There were about 200 people there. It was the biggest demo I have been to in Battle Creek since about…forever. Even during the Vietnam War, all the big demonstrations were in Kalamazoo, 30 miles to the west, which has a large college student population. The demonstration was called by VOCES, a Latinx group.
—Retired postal worker
Child-led demonstration in Bay Area
Oakland, Calif.—On June 30, tens of thousands in the Bay Area demonstrated against President Trump’s cruel, criminal and racist separation of families at the border. Demonstrators gathered in Oakland, San Francisco and at the County Detention Facility in Richmond used by ICE.
A unique “Families Belong Together” rally of about a thousand at Oakland Lakeside Park was initiated by a ten-year-old girl, Kaia Marbin, who shared her distress with her mother over a photo of a crying child at the border. When her mother, Jyothi Marbin, explained to her what was happening at the border, Kaia organized this “kid-led” rally.
Kaia and other young people spoke, including Evelyn, who said this has been happening for years. She related a heart-wrenching account of trying to keep a distant, loving connection with her father, who was taken away from her in an ICE raid. The rally brought out many families who don’t ordinarily demonstrate.
Part of the activity was youth painting their own signs, with statements like “Stop Pretending Your Racism is Patriotism,” “Where’s Your Humanity?”, “Families Belong in Communities, Not Cages” and “Zero Tolerance for Child Abuse.” From a JapaneseAmerican family came the message “Never Again, No Prison Camps.”
Trump declared that his political opponents want immigrants to “infest” the U.S. This assumes human beings are vermin, when in fact they are families seeking asylum, often already traumatized, escaping extreme violence and economic deprivation. In many ways U.S. policies were implicated in creating those conditions. As seen in an ongoing “occupation” in front of the San Francisco ICE offices, this disgusting lack of caring is awakening a
ICE challenged in Portland
Portland, Ore.—By June 17, as news spread of border agents unjustly separating and detaining families throughout the U.S., Occupy ICE in Portland, Oregon, was starting. It began as a few dedicated people putting up tents and grew day by day. It now stands as an encampment on the railroad tracks right behind the ICE building in Southwest Portland. It has resisted multiple attempts at destruction by heavily militarized Department of Homeland
Security agents and federal police.
With vigils being held frequently, Occupy ICE protestors invite sympathizers to come and show support for those impacted by unjust ICE detention. A “F*** ICE” balloon floated high above a nearby building and candles and flowers lined the altar that sat on the steps in front of a Tesla dealership near the camp. The mood was solemn but communal. A member of the encampment began by speaking about why they were there and committed to abolishing ICE. They had seen the power of collective action and prayer in other Occupy movements and they wanted to see it here.
A musician played his shekere as his wife passed out lavender she had collected that day. Others spoke about how their homelands of El Salvador and Ecuador had been negatively impacted by U.S. imperialism but were rarely spoken of except when people discussed their favorite coffee blend. A Transwoman from an island nation called out all the white people in the audience, saying whites need to stop being so nice to police officers and federal agents
who are trained to kill people of color with impunity.
There was a pall cast over the event as DHS agents presided silently over the vigil, standing on the roof of the ICE building with their guns pointed at the crowd. From where we were sitting, they were simply an outline illuminated by the sunset. But we knew why they were there and what they were doing.