by Brent D. Griffiths · June 30, 2018
Activists gather to protest the Trump administration’s approach to illegal border crossings and separation of children from immigrant parents in Lafayette Square across from the White House on Saturday. | Alex Brandon/AP Photo
Protesters gathered in front of the White House and across the nation on Saturday to slam the Trump administration’s separation of migrant families, the latest mass demonstration to push back on the president and his administration.
Marchers chanted “families belong together,” the name of the rally in Washington and in events that were scheduled to take place in more than 750 cities across the country. The protest was organized by the liberal organization MoveOn.Org, the Americans Civil Liberties Union, The Leadership Conference and National Domestic Workers Alliance.
“We’re here to say to Trump: End this zero-tolerance policy,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) told POLITICO. “Get these kids out of cages and reunite them with their parents.”
The Associated Press reported marches took place in range of communities, from cities such as New York and Los Angeles to small towns such as Antler, N.D. Many of the attendees in Washington, where it was 92 degrees, and elsewhere marched despite sweltering heat.
In Indianapolis, Patricia Carlan, a grandmother of nine, told the Associated Press, “Evil is not going to prevail.”
“I’m hoping that decent human beings come together, and enough is enough, we’re taking out country back over…,” said Carlan, of Danville, Ind., who was among hundreds who gathered at her state’s capital.
Amy Cohen, a California-based child psychiatrist, said she traveled to a detention facility in McAllen, Texas, because she “knew our government was deliberately torturing young children.”
“I knew that as a doctor, a parent, an American and a human being that I knew I had to act to say: Not in my name,” Cohen told marchers in Washington.
Organizers said that 30,000 people gathered at the main rally within view of the White House, though President Donald Trump was not in Washington to witness the event. The president was spending this weekend at his property in Bedminster, N.J., where, among other things, he may meet with possible nominees to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court left by Justice Anthony Kennedy. Protesters were observed near where Trump was playing golf on Saturday.
Trump did, however, tweet several times throughout the day about immigration and ICE.
“When people come into our Country illegally, we must IMMEDIATELY escort them back out without going through years of legal maneuvering. Our laws are the dumbest anywhere in the world. Republicans want Strong Borders and no Crime. Dems want Open Borders and are weak on Crime!“ one of Trump’s tweets read.
In the nation’s capital, TV anchors estimated the crowd stretched back for miles and included signs bearing messages like: “Yes to Immigrant, No to Trump + GOP”; “What’s next? Concentration Camps? Oh wait …” and “Children Need Their Parents.”
Many of the protesters poked fun at first lady Melania Trump’s green jacket that she wore when she visited a child detention facility in South Texas on June 21. The first lady’s team rejected the notion that the garment, which had the words “”I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?,” had any intended message.
“I CARE WHY DON’T U” read one jacket decorated to look like Trump’s.
Jayapal and a number of other Democratic lawmakers attended rallies either in Washington or in their respective states. A number of celebrities also joined marchers in Washington, including Grammy award-winning singer and songwriter Alicia Keys, Diane Guerrero, a star on Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black,” and “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Miranda sang a lullaby drawn from “Dear Theodosia,” for the parents of separated children who are not able to sing to their own kids.
“We’re here because there are parents right now who can’t sing lullabies for their kids,” Miranda said. “We’re not going to stop until they can sing them again.”
In Atlanta, Rep. John Lewis told the crowd, “There is no such thing as an illegal human being. We are all humans.” The 78-year-old Lewis, who was the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington, also urged the crowd to protest peacefully.
Outrage over the administration’s policy of separating migrant families came to a head over the past couple weeks. Reporters and news crews flocked to the border and came back with stories and images of children being housed in metal cages, crying out for their parents. Audio published by ProPublica on July 18, reportedly of children in a detention facility, further galvanized outrage over the practice.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in May that the administration would be undertaking a new “zero-tolerance” immigration policy that would lead to the prosecution of anyone who illegally crossed the border.
Despite the pronouncement, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen subsequently argued the administration did not have a policy of separating children from their families and castigated the media for misreporting the issue. Trump went a step further and falsely blamed Democrats for the policy. Sessions and other White House officials further contradicted themselves when they were unable to agree on whether the impetus for separating families was to deter further illegal entries.
The White House then held firm that only Congress could fix the issue and that Trump’s hands were tied, before the president subsequently signed an executive order designed to end the practice. Trump’s directive, signed June 20, led to some initial confusion, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan told reporters in Texas on Monday that his agency has temporarily stopped referring adults who cross the border illegally with children for criminal prosecution.
“This is a moral crisis for our nation,” Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez said on CNN. “We’re fighting for our democracy. This is one of those where were ya’ moments.”