Madison rallies to defend DACA

September 14, 2017

Kim Gasper, Jon Isaac and Ken Love report on an inspirational march and rally led by undocumented students in Wisconsin's State Capitol.

ABOUT 500 people came together on September 9 in Madison, Wisconsin, to protest the Trump administration's cancellation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Students, faculty, families and members of various community, political and service organizations gathered at the Library Mall at noon on the University of Wisconsin (UW) campus and marched down State Street to make their demands heard on a UW football team game day--which is prime time in Madison.

The march was organized by four friends who are students at UW-Madison and Madison Area Technical College.

Local politicians and even the city's infamous police chief were hanging around the march, but the four young organizers made it clear from the start that no politicians would speak, and that only DREAMers could take the stage at the rally.

The march toward the Capitol building began and was lively and loud, filling State Street with chants of "Here to stay!" "When immigrant rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!" and "United we stand, divided we fall. An injury to one is an injury to all!"

Protesters rally in the Wisconsin state Capitol building to defend DACA
Protesters rally in the Wisconsin state Capitol building to defend DACA (Ken Love)

Members of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) joined with those in Socialist Alternative and Democratic Socialists of America to form a socialist contingent.

By the time the march reached the steps of the Capitol building, it had grown in size. Seeing this, organizers made the call to take over the Capitol rotunda for the rally and speeches. The march agreed overwhelmingly and soon protesters filled up three floors of the rotunda.

The first speaker proclaimed with a fist in the air: "I was five years old when [my family] came to the U.S., I'm gay and I'm here to stay!" This was met with thunderous applause and chants.

"Imagine being brought to America at 15 months old, growing up and attending school, making friends, cultivating your passions," said another speaker named Maria, "only to become 17 years old and being told that you could no longer pursue your dreams because you are illegal."

Another DACA recipient named Erika talked about the impact that the program had made on her life. "It's a shame to see that it appears to be coming to an end," she said. "It has given me a ton of opportunities, getting my job, being able to help out my parents with some bills, earning my own money."

All the speakers were DREAMers who spoke of their stories, and while they had fear about the possibility of being deported, they also expressed confidence that our community can do something to stop it.

The rally was inspirational and hopefully just a glimpse of what's possible moving forward. Immigrant rights organizations in the Midwest have solid networks in communities, campuses and workplaces that are capable of mobilizing thousands.

And though much of the political discourse centered on voting the right politicians into office, this march represented the desire for more than was currently on offer by two-party politics everywhere.

What the future holds for further organizing in Wisconsin and on campus is still unknown, but this was an incredible demonstration of perseverance in the face of a White House ready to scapegoat anyone for political gain.

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