The pro-immigrant majority in the streets

July 2, 2018

Alan Maass rounds up reports from contributors around the country who tell what happened on the June 30 day of mobilizations to oppose Trump’s anti-immigrant hate.

AFTER A week that reminded everyone just how much damage Trump and the right wing can do — from the continuing nightmare for migrant families at the border to the Supreme Court’s reactionary decisions and the new opening for Trump to make things even worse — hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to send a message of defiance and opposition.

The June 30 day of Families Belong Together mobilizations, called less than two weeks ago, had protests and marches in 750 cities and every state, from the biggest cities to smaller towns.

This was far and away the biggest demonstration in defense of immigrant rights in the Trump era. The size of the protests didn’t match the Women’s Marches this year and last, but there were similarities — crowds spanning generations, multiracial, bringing together people who never protested before with veteran organizers and agitators.

Protesters take to the streets of Minneapolis against Trump's attacks on immigrants
Protesters take to the streets of Minneapolis against Trump's attacks on immigrants (Fibonacci Blue | flickr)

This is an important statement as Trump and his administration intensify their hateful policies. Their conscious aim is to terrorize immigrant communities into submission.

But masses of people wanted to come out on Saturday to show that they will stand up to the assault on the most vulnerable in society — and that Trump’s steamroller attack isn’t shutting them up.

The day of protest was called by a coalition of liberal organizations, including MoveOn, the ACLU, the National Domestic Workers’ Alliance and others. These groups believe that the anti-Trump resistance needs to make a priority of electing Democrats in November.

Voting was a big part of the message on June 30. But there was also a clear urgency, obvious in the crowd and even among sponsoring organizations, about doing something now — taking action today and tomorrow, and not waiting for six months.

Like in previous demonstrations of the Trump era, the spirit of the protests were captured in countless handmade signs, with messages ranging from moving responses to the horrors of family separation and squalid detention centers to more radical sentiments.

One of the most popular slogans everywhere, it seemed, was “Abolish ICE.” To many people, this might have seemed extreme only a month ago, but the cruelty of the Trump administration’s policy at the border has opened people’s eyes.

More people are realizing that the immigration system can’t be fixed, but must be replaced entirely, with compassion and solidarity as the guideposts. That is a sentiment to build on in organizing resistance to Trump on this and other issues — not only for big protests, but using every opportunity that comes our way.

We won’t win this fight with one big day of protests, but we need days like these to show us that there is another side that opposes Trump’s war on immigrants — and it is ready to fight back.

In Los Angeles, a huge crowd, estimated at as large as 75,000, filled the entire 12-acre space of Grand Park to capacity and beyond for the Families Belong Together protest.

Among the crowd was 86-year-old Armony Share of Sherman Oaks, who told the Los Angeles Times, “The Jews were turned away [from America] when they were able to escape from Europe in World War II. Are we doing the same thing to these people? When you’re against one group, you’re against all of them.”

More so than in many cities, the speakers’ platform was dominated by celebrities and Democratic Party politicians. This frustrated activists — especially the presence of Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has claimed to defend the rights of the undocumented, but has defended the Los Angeles Police Department’s collaboration with ICE. Garcetti also watered down a major initiative adopted last year to give targets of the deportation machine some access to due process.

As Garcetti began his speech, members of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) members began chanting “Abolish ICE” and “Eric Garcetti, that’s not nice. Stop collaborating with ICE!” Others in the crowd joined in and booed Garcetti, who cut his time noticeably short.

“We were pretty nervous,” said ISO member Hector A. Rivera. “I wasn’t sure how it was going to go down. But once we booed him when he took the stage, and then everyone around us started booing too, it was like: they’re on our side!”

As the march began following the rally, the ISO and DSA were part of a successful socialist contingent along with Socialist Alternative and LA members of Mexico’s Partido Revolucionario de las y los Trabajadores.

The crowd had a large number of people who want to look beyond just Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy. Cynthia Alonso, a member of Brown Issues, a young activist group that is starting a new branch on the California State University-Los Angeles campus, pointed out: “Many immigrants are not willingly leaving their homes, but are being forced to migrate because of U.S. involvement in Mexico, Central America, and around the world.”

Others emphasized the importance of showing the victims of the ICE attack that they aren’t alone.

In Chicago, 100 degree temperatures didn’t stop 50,000 people gathering to rally in Daley Plaza and march around the Loop to protest the Trump administration’s separation of refugee families in detention.

The march route was around a mile and a half long, and those at the start of the march were thrilled, as they returned to Daley Plaza, to see the end of the march still leaving.

The main issue that united everyone was ending the separation of detained families, but marchers had strong opinions on issues that went much further, from abolishing ICE and ending all deportations, to providing amnesty for all.

Asked where the leadership of the anti-Trump resistance lies, the response was overwhelmingly that the power and initiative has been in the streets, with the people.

Lauren, a sixth-grade teacher in Chicago Public Schools, made the point that we need to “link direct actions together and form a movement. Lots of folks wouldn’t do direct action before, but due to the absolutely clear inhumanity they’re now open where they were closed.”

In New York City, a crowd estimated in the tens of thousands assembled in Lower Manhattan’s Foley Square ahead of a march for immigrants across the Brooklyn Bridge. Braving the hot June sun, the thickly packed and vibrant crowd teemed with people from hundreds of organizations and backgrounds.

The thousands of individually made signs people had made at home and at work ranged from simple, cutting messages like “Give their babies back” to more elaborate ones like “What’s next, concentration camps? Oh wait...” and “Every mother is me, every child is mine — families belong together.”

There were members of the New York City Council on the platform and holding banners, but it was the large crowd that gave the rally and march their energy, with loud chants of “¡Trump, escucha — estamos en la lucha!” and “No more children in a cage! We are here to show our rage!”

In the crowd, immigrant rights activists took the bullhorn to talk about the way forward.

Denise Romero spoke up from the socialist contingents with a message that justice for immigrants can only come from below: “We believe in the streets; we believe in the marches; we believe in the boycotts; we believe in the sit-ins that are going to fix this problem. What are we going to do until November? We’re going to mobilize; we’re going to protest!”

On the bridge, cars revved their engines and honked in support. Yellow and green cab drivers, in particular, laid on their horns and pumped their fists in solidarity.

The demonstration took several hours to make it over the river and into Brooklyn, where the rally ended before many marchers had made it across. But the commitment to see this fight through was clear throughout.

In San Francisco, tens of thousands took to the streets to protest the separation of families at the border and the Supreme Court’s upholding of the Muslim ban.

Demonstrators gathered at Mission Dolores Park and marched down Market Street to the Civic Center. The start of the march arrived at its destination while people were still leaving the park.

At various job sites along the march route, construction workers raised fists and clapped in support. One blew an air horn while his partner drummed out a beat with the metal clip of his safety harness.

The mood was less festive than past demonstrations, with a definite feeling of anger and urgency. “Immigrants aren’t security threats,” said one speaker. “White supremacy is a security threat! ICE and the separation of families is a security threat!” Popular chants included: “How do you spell racist? I-C-E!” and “Immigrants in, ICE out.”

In Boston, around 15,000 people gathered for a rally and march as part of the national day of action for immigrant rights. More than 100 organizations co-sponsored and had a presence at the event, including unions, immigrant rights groups, anti-racist groups, Democratic Party groups, Palestine solidarity organizations and socialists.

Though the main slogan for the rally was “Together and Free: Rally Against Family Separation,” the crowd was ready to take up broader and more radical issues, calling for the decriminalization of immigrants, solidarity with those affected by the Muslim ban and the abolition of ICE.

At the rally at Government Center Plaza, Brazilian immigrant Sirley Silveira Paixao gave a moving account of U.S. Customs and Border Protection separating her and her son Diego during her attempt to gain asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border in May.

Massachusetts Democrats Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey were also speakers. They talked about the horrors they witnessed in touring ICE facilities, but many in the crowd seemed to recognize that the Democrats’ public expressions of opposition against family separations are the result of pressure from protest.

While the speeches were going on, a group of about five neo-Nazis, known as the Blue Bloc, showed up to the rally wearing sunglasses and facemasks.

Police quickly surrounded the white supremacists to protect them from the contingent formed by the Boston International Socialist Organization and Democratic Socialists of America to shout them down and drive them out of the rally. Hundreds of people joined in to encircle the Nazis, chanting “Nazi scum, go home!”

The spirited march from Government Center to Boston Common filled the city’s winding downtown streets, with chants like “Hey ICE, what do you say, how many kids did you steal today?” echoing off buildings.

Once at the Common, the anti-Nazi socialist contingent learned that the Nazis had relocated their small numbers to the other side of the park, once again protected by police. The contingent quickly mobilized around the Nazis, drawing in 150 to 300 people with the goal of chanting them out of the demonstration once and for all. After about 15 minutes of concerted chanting, the police began escorting the Nazis out of the park.

In Austin, Texas, more than 8,000 people descended on the Capitol building in blistering triple digit heat to challenge Trump’s Gestapo assault on immigrant rights. Organizations sponsoring the demonstration numbered more than 50, including Indivisible Austin, Austin DSA, Black Lives Matter and the local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

While billed originally as a demonstration against Trump’s zero-tolerance policy, protesters brought their outrage to bear not just on the separation of families, but also on family detention, ICE and the entire deportation machine.

Sulma Franco, an asylum seeker from Guatemala, helped open the rally with a speech: “This nation has been built by the sweat and the pain of the immigrant people...This is the time to show your power. Its time to end the harassment against the immigrant community. They need to close these prisons and free these children and the mothers and the fathers!”

Zenén Jaimes Pérez of the Texas Civil Rights Project reminded listeners that “the hostile immigration system...was built even before the Trump administration...We demand that the Trump administration reunify families and end zero-tolerance now. But we’re also here to say that this problem will not end until we abolish ICE and abolish CBP.”

In the crowd, listeners sounded the same themes.” We see this as a human rights issue,” said Joshua Balzer, who attended with fellow members of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 520. “There is a huge part of our population of workers who are immigrants themselves, and we want to be here today to support people’s rights.”

In Seattle, 10,000 people rallied at the SeaTac Federal Detention Center, south of Seattle, as part of the national Families Belong Together day of action.

The three-hour rally included speakers from over a dozen community organizations, with an emphasis on the connection between family reunification and the anti-Muslim travel ban. Favorite signs included “Abolish ICE,” “No Concentration Camps for Immigrants” and “Zero Tolerance for Sessions’ Zero Tolerance.”

Being at the detention center itself was very powerful. Several speakers directed their comments to the people detained inside, or lead chants of “You are not alone” while facing the building.

In Minneapolis, more than 10,000 people turned out for an outpouring of outrage at the horror perpetrated against immigrants by ICE agents and the Trump administration.

Chants during the march called for jailing Trump instead of kids, spending more money on jobs and education instead of deportations, and opposing the Muslim ban and border walls. When we stopped to protest at the Hennepin County Jail, the cry “Abolish ICE!” carried broadly through the crowd.

The local branch of the International Socialist Organization joined with Democratic Socialists of America, Socialist Alternative and International Workers of the World for form a contingent that marched to the meeting point at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

In Philadelphia, thousands of people came out to Logan Circle for a Families Belong Together demonstration. The rally site had to be changed from City Hall when it became clear that the demonstration was going to be large.

Among the speakers, Briheem Douglas, vice president of UNITE-HERE Local 274, called on Gov. Tom Wolfe to close the Berks Detention Center. This is a facility 70 miles from Philadelphia that is used by ICE to house immigrant families it wants to deport.

Douglas told the crowd: “The forces locking up Black people and separating families in North Philadelphia are the same forces locking up immigrant families across our country.”

A group of demonstrators took to the street, defying police attempts to stop them. The march ended up at ICE’s field office, where protesters chanted, “Shame.”

In Burlington, Vermont, around 2,000 people marched through the streets for the Families Belong Together day of action, with chants of “How do you spell racist? I-C-E!” and “Si Se Peude!” echoing across the downtown. It was a huge turnout for a city of 40,000 people.

There was an immediate issue at stake in Vermont: the workers’ rights group Migrant Justice/Justicia Migrante was there to call for ICE to free Alejandro Hernandez Ventura, the latest Vermont farmworker abducted by federal immigration enforcemnt.

Alejandro was 16 when he came to Vermont — he was taken away from his wife by ICE agents shouting in English and refusing to identify themselves. When his wife pulled out her cell phone to record the scene, it was snatched away by agents.

During the rally at the end of the march, former state Rep. Kesha Ram focued on getting Republican Gov. Phil Scott to sign an executive order forbidding the use of any state resources to support Trump’s “zero-tolerance policy.”

But others stressed the importance of mobilizing: ACLU staff attorney Jay Diaz told the crowd: “Lawsuits can only do so much, but with the power of the people, judges feel they can stand up to this administration, as they should and can.” ISO member Owen LaFarge got raucous applause when he called for “a socialist future with open borders.”

In Columbus, Ohio, as many as 1,500 people gathered at the Ohio statehouse to hear stories from immigrants about their struggles at the border, with ICE and with police.

The event was called by a woman who had never been to a rally before. A mother and a nurse, she says that when she heard the story of an 8-month-old baby being ripped away from its family at the border and placed in foster care in Michigan, she knew she had to act.

The crowd was a mixture of long-time organizers and first-timers, both individuals and families, including many who said the 2017 Women’s March was their introduction to public demonstrations.

Stephanie Gonzalez, the daughter of Edith Espinal, who is in sanctuary in Columbus, read a letter Espinal wrote encouraging the crowd to continue to fight for immigrants. Espinal also wrote about her husband seeking asylum at the border during the Obama administration, when ICE detained her daughter, even though Stephanie is a U.S. citizen.

After the speakers, the rally concluded with a march around the statehouse. Toward the end of the march, some demonstrators left the planned route to pay a visit to the ICE office a block away. Around 200 people marched to ICE’s office chanting, “No Police! No ICE!” and “You can’t spell ‘police’ without ‘ICE.’”

In San Diego, more than 1,000 people converged on Waterfront Park downtown to participate in the national call to confront Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy at the Waterfront Park in Downtown San Diego.

“The most important message is that we cannot be silent, Enrique Morones, founder and director of the human rights group Border Angels, told the rally crowd. “We need to rise up, we need to protest.”

During the march that followed, Mario and Guadalupe talked about why people turned out for the demonstration. “If there’s no vocalization around this issue,” Guadalupe said. “the word won’t get out there. People come here because they fear for their lives where they’re coming from.”

Mario agreed: “If we don’t stand up, then there would be no change. I think these movements should keep going and have organizations to help build this project. even further.”

The protest today and one last week in San Diego show that the narrative is definitely changing in the U.S., and more people are awakening to the injustices of the system as a whole. There was emphasis for participants to register to vote and to call members of Congress, but also a promising number of people who are in solidarity with the bold statement to “Abolish ICE.”

In Olympia, Washington, several thousand people gathered at the state Capitol building to protest the Trump administration policy of separating immigrant families.

Lynn Dilley of Rainier, Washington stood on the steps of the Capitol wrapped in a space blanket to symbolize the type of blankets given to detained children. “In the United States in 2018, we’re tearing kids away from their families”, she said. “My feeling is that if they can do this to anyone, what’s to stop them from doing it to the rest of us?”

Lynda Zeman of Lacey, Washington came to the rally with her 2-year-old son. “Everybody should be upset by it, but as a mother, I’m enraged,” said Zeman. “It’s overwhelming to think about — you can empathize so easily.”

In Portland, Maine, some 2,000 people took part in the Families Belong Together rally on June 30.

Speakers for the rally represented immigrant advocacy organizations, as well as unions and liberal groups. They emphasized that the ICE attack isn’t just something that is happening across the country on the southern border with Mexico. ICE agents have arrested people at the Portland courthouse and set up check stations at the Bangor bus station.

Shenna Bellows, director of the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, asked the crowd to look around them and notice who among their friends and family weren’t there. She challenged people to have difficult conversations with friends and family to get them to understand just how important this issue is.

In Pittsburgh, some 2,000 people came out, in spite of blistering heat and smoggy air, to demonstrate in support of migrant children and their families.

The messages of speakers ranged from “get out and vote” to more radical ones, including those who connected this movement to the recent police killing of Antwon Rose II, an unarmed 17-year-old.

There was a sense that the political mood is changing in Pittsburgh and people are beginning to realize that the only way we can make our “Most Livable City” truly livable for all of us is to organize.

In Syracuse, New York, more than 1,000 protesters joined together to send a clear message: ICE isn’t welcome in our city.

The rally began with speeches from immigrants facing the terror inflicted by immigration authorities. They decried the raids on homes, farms and transit centers to kidnap our neighbors and split families. As SW contributor Nagesh Rao told the crowd prior to the march: “Clearly this has to stop, and clearly, we are the ones who are going to stop it.”

Protesters left the park and began marching to an ICE facility two blocks away. Along the way, both the size of the demonstration and the openness to radical demands became clear.

In front of the nondescript downtown property that houses an ICE office, activists hoisted a banner that read, “ICE Kidnaps Migrants Here, Abolish ICE.” The crowd erupted in cheers and chants as the banner was hung, before circling around the building to bear witness to the gated alleyway that ICE agents use as a loading dock for human beings.

In New Orleans, well over 1,000 people rallied together in Congo Square and marched to Jackson Square in a protest against ICE and the Trump administration.

The crowd was full of homemade signs denouncing or calling for the abolition of ICE. As it entered the old French Quarter tourist area, the march loudly took up the chant “No borders, no nations, stop deportations!”

The rally at the end of the march was addressed by a woman named Maria whose family was targeted by police in neighboring Jefferson Parish during a traffic stop. By profiling and stopping them while driving, Jefferson Parish Sheriffs arrested her husband, leading to his being detained and then deported. Their actions were fatal — he died trying to return to the U.S. to reunite with Maria and their children.

Marchers also heard from local activist Jose Torres, who recently took refuge in a church sanctuary for seen months when he faced the threat of deportation. A recent temporary “suspension” allowed him to walk out of the church.

In Rochester, New York, up to 1,000 people showed up on a blazing hot summer day as part of the June 30 call to action in support of reuniting families torn apart by ICE and ending the barbaric detention of immigrant families.

The protest was organized by Action Together Rochester, but was sponsored by at least 20 local organizations, including the Rochester Rapid Response Network, the Greater Rochester Coalition for Immigration Justice and the Worker Justice Center of NY.

Among the most popular signs were those calling to “Melt ICE”, “Crush ICE” or just “Abolish ICE”.

In Madison, Wisconsin, a crowd of more than 800 demonstrators gathered at the state capitol to protest Trump’s “zero-tolerance” deportation policy. This followed a similarly sized rally the previous weekend that also gathered at the Capitol.

Fired up by the Forward! Marching Band, the crowd spirited, despite the extreme heat, and the handmade signs delivered many messages, including opposition to Trump and calls to reunite families. Another connected the racism at the border to the orgins of the U.S.: “Our ancestors were the original illegal aliens.”

Philosophy, who co-hosts the Two Broads Talking Politics podcast, was supportive, like others in the crowd, of the “Abolish ICE” slogan: “People of my generation are very receptive to the call for abolition, perhaps because ICE’s creation coincides with a lot of other federal overreaches that people now oppose.”

A number of participants held signs with a graphic from the organization Jewish Voice for Peace, which featured a photo of family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border and another of a child being arrested by Israeli troops in Palestine — the slogan was: “Keep families together.”

In Charlottesville, Virginia, some 700 people gathered outside the Arbemarle County office building for a Families Belong Together rally.

One call for action focused on pressuring Arbemarle County officials to end their policy of contacting ICE when undocumented people held at the county jail are about to be released. After the rally, a group of demonstrators occupied a nearby road and were met by a constant stream of car horns.

In Springfield, Massachusetts, more than 1,000 people came out for a demonstration that merged two separate events that were being planned in Springfield and Northampton.

The speakers included immigrants involved in struggles in the community, who shared their experiences of being affected by horrible anti-immigrant policies in the area.

In the crowd, a woman from Puerto Rico echoed the theme of community and outrage, saying that for her, the issues of the border and what is happening in Puerto Rico since Hurricane María are connected by the reality of racism toward immigrants and people of color.

In New London, Connecticut, some 500 people gathered in one of the city’s largest demonstrations of any kind, and the largest since Trump gave the commencement address at the Coast Guard Academy in 2017.

Many of the speakers had a moderate message of prayer and voting in November, while praising the city for being an example of multiculturalism, but activists convinced organizers to allow speakers representing a member of the community who had been kidnapped by ICE to address the crowd.

There was energy in the crowd to confront ICE, and many grassroots activists are determined to build on that clear momentum to building a movement, including the city’s sizable immigrant community, to fight for our kidnapped community members.

In Athens, Ohio, a Rally and March Against Family Separation took place on June 29 and brought out a crowd of 120 people for a march through the center of town to the Ohio University (OU) campus.

The importance of intersectionality in the resistance to Trump was a theme in Athens. Carla Triana, president of the OU International Student Union and one of 70 students arrested in the spring 2017 for a campus sit-in against the Muslim ban spoke about how her experiences as an undocumented child led her to stand up for the rights of Muslim students.

Ryan Powers, of the Athens ISO, told the crowd, “I’m here to stand in solidarity with everyone who is threatened or sickened by what’s happening at the border right now.” He continued, “I’m also one of those new abolitionists standing in a strong American tradition of trying to abolish things like slavery. And now we have to abolish ICE!”

Andrew Abreu, Amy Suheidy Arreaga, Dorian B., Danna Cascone, Brandon Daniels, Carin Dunay, Elizabeth Fawthrop, Jeanine Santa Cruz Hernández, Henry Hillenbrand, Katherine King, Steven Lazaroff, Greg M., Craig McQuade, Renzy Neffshade, Luke Pickrell, Richard Putz, Steve Ramey, Peter Ruhm, Alessandra Seiter, Seth Uzman, Daniel Werst, Joel Witt and James Zeigler contributed to this article.

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