Thousands turned out for nationwide “Families Belong Together,” rallies to protest Donald Trump’s immigration policy and urge citizens to vote in November midterm elections.
Events took place in Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago and hundreds of other cities. The protestors were supporting the over 2,000 migrant children separated from their families detained at the U.S.- Mexico border.
In Washington, D.C., the U.S. capital, protestors converged near the White House. CGTN’s Toby Muse reports from the D.C. protest.
“Watching the new and seeing the immigration policies, it was breaking my heart,” said Shelby Workman, a pre-school teacher.
The protestors are demanding that the government reunite these children with their families quickly.
“I’m here to protest the way Donald Trump’s handling the separation policies and the pitiful attempts to reunite the families,” said Joshua Guttman, a technical writer.
After facing backlash on his immigration policy, President Trump signed an executive order on June 20th reversing the policy of family separations.
Earlier week, a California federal judge ordered a nationwide reunification of children and parents- ending most family separations at the border within 30 days.
And Friday, the Department of Justice said in a court filing they will comply, but said the order means they are now allowed to detain families in temporary shelters together as long as it takes to resolve their immigration cases.
More than 2,500 children have been separated from their families since the policy began two months ago.
The government says over 500 children have been placed back with their families. The children will remain in federal shelters across the country while the government tries to reunite the detained families.
In Washington, D.C., there were various chants of “vote them out” making clear that immigration will likely be a major issue in mid-term elections this fall.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the musical “Hamilton,” sang a lullaby dedicated to parents unable to sing to their children. Singer-songwriter Alicia Keys read a letter written by a woman whose child had been taken away from her at the border.
“It’s upsetting. Families being separated, children in cages,” said Emilia Ramos, a cleaner in the district, fighting tears at the rally. “Seeing everyone together for this cause, it’s emotional.”
Around her, thousands waved signs: “I care,” some read, referencing a jacket that first lady Melania Trump wore when traveling to visit child migrants. Her jacket said, “I really don’t care, do U?” and it became a rallying cry for protesters Saturday.
In the president’s hometown of New York City, an estimated 30,000 marchers poured across the Brooklyn Bridge in sweltering 90-degree heat, some carrying their children on their shoulders, chanting, “Shame!” Drivers honked their horns in support.
“It’s important for this administration to know that these policies that rip apart families —that treat people as less than human, like they’re vermin — are not the way of God, they are not the law of love,” said the Rev. Julie Hoplamazian, an Episcopal priest marching in Brooklyn.
The families split up as they tried to enter the U.S. illegally were largely fleeing extreme violence, persecution or economic collapse in their home countries, often in Central America.
“I care!! Do you?” read Joan Culwell’s T-shirt as she joined a boisterous rally in Denver.
“We care!” marchers shouted outside Dallas City Hall. Organizer Michelle Wentz says opposition to the Trump administration’s “barbaric and inhumane” policy has seemed to cross political party lines. The “zero tolerance policy” of prosecuting people caught entering the country illegally led officials to separate more than 2,000 children from their parents before being abandoned.
Trump took to Twitter to show his support for Immigration and Customs Enforcement amid calls from some Democrats for major changes to the agency. Tweeting from New Jersey on Saturday, Trump urged ICE agents to “not worry or lose your spirit.” He wrote that “the radical left Dems want you out. Next it will be all police.”
Though many at the rallies were seasoned anti-Trump demonstrators, others were new to activism, including parents who said they felt compelled to act after heart-wrenching accounts of families torn apart.
Nationwide, groups came together in city parks and downtown squares, while others converged on the international bridge between El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico.
At the border, they protested what speakers described as unconstitutional overreach by the Trump administration and heavy-handed tactics by immigration agents. They carried signs with slogans like “We are all immigrants” as they chanted “Love, not hate, makes America great.”
Marchers took to the streets in Raleigh, North Carolina; Louisville, Kentucky; Pittsburgh; Houston; cities in Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, as well as Antler, North Dakota, population 27.
Steve Adelmund, a father of two, was inspired to organize a protest in rural Marshalltown, Iowa, after turning on the news on Father’s Day and seeing children being separated from their families and held in cages.
“It hit me in the heart. I cried,” said Adelmund, whose event drew about 125 people.
“If we can’t come together under the idea of ‘Kids shouldn’t be taken from their parents,’ where are we?” he asked. “We have to speak out now while we can, before we can’t.”
In Columbus, Ohio, at least one person was arrested when protesters blocked a downtown street, the Columbus Dispatch reported. But most of the rallies remained peaceful.
In downtown Los Angeles, John Legend serenaded the crowd while Democratic politicians who have clashed with Trump had strong words for the president, including U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters who called for impeachment.
Margarita Perez held up a Mexican flag as speakers addressed the crowd in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“Those children that they are incarcerating and separating, they are our future generations. We need to provide for these children,” she said. “They will be our future leaders.”
Two thousand miles away in Boston, a Brazilian mother separated from her 10-year-old son at the border 37 days ago approached the microphone.
“We came to the United States seeking help, and we never imagined that this could happen. So I beg everyone, please release these children, give my son back to me,” she said through an interpreter and wept.
He son has pleaded with her on the phone to bring him home.
“I beg you all,” she said. “Please fight and continue fighting, because we will win.”
In Washington, protesters ended their march at the white-columned Department of Justice. They taped their protest signs, written in English and Spanish, to its grand wooden doors.
“Fight for families,” the sign declared.
Story by The Associated Press with additional information from CGTN.