Local Talk

Hundreds March In Families Belong Together Protest

Local Talk — July 11, 2018

By Lev D. Zilbermints

NEWARK — Hundreds of people from across New Jersey and beyond gathered at Newark City Hall on June 30 to protest Donald Trump's immigration policies.

Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Muslims, Christians, Jews, atheists, all came together in Newark on June 30 to protest President Donald Trump's zero-tolerance policies. The crowd filled the steps of Newark City Hall and spilled outside. By one estimate, there were at least 500 - 1,000 people at the height of the protest.

Nor was the Newark protest the only one. According to multiple media sources, similar protests were held in New York, Philadelphia, Mexico, Australia, and throughout the United States and the world. According to media, more than 700 protests took place on June 30, 2018.

The list of partners in the Newark, NJ march included Communications Workers of America - NJ Chapter; Planned Parenthood Action Fund of NJ; Make the Road NJ; BlueWaveNJ; New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice; NJ 11th for Change; Wind of the Spirit; Women for Progress; 1199 SEIU; ACLU-NJ; American Friends Service Committee Immigrant Rights Program; Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War; Health Professionals and Allied Employees; Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey; Ironbound Community Corporation; National Association of Social Workers - NJ Chapter; New Jersey Citizen Action; New Labor; NJ08 for Progress; SPAN - Parent Advocacy Network; Unitarian Universalist Faith Action NJ.

Many of the protesters were school-age children and teens, as well as college students. The age of the protesters ranged from babies lying in prams pushed by their mothers, to old men in their 80s. Regardless of race, sex, age, or other factors, all came together to demand that President Donald Trump not tear apart immigrant families.

Numerous signs could be seen among the huge crowds. "Defund ICE!" No human being is illegal", "Immigrant Rights are Human Rights," "Don't let hate Decide Someone's Fate" were a small sampling of the various signs held by the anti-Trump crowd.

The list of speakers included U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Robert Menendez; Tammy Murphy, the wife of New Jersey's Governor Phil Murphy; Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman; Johanna Calle, director of New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice; and numerous activists from the many organizations that partnered in the march.

Erika Martinez, of Make the Road New Jersey, told the crowd that immigrant youth was under attack from an administration that valued white supremacy and hate more than anything else.

"As a Dreamer who crossed the border as a small child seeking refuge in the United States with my family, the Trump administration's cruelty shakes me to my core. Immigrant youth are under attack by a government that rules with an agenda of white supremacy and hate, and ICE officers who seek to detain and deport us all - whether it is at the border or here in New Jersey. Today we stand in unity and resistance because our families belong together. It's time to abolish ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and stand up for our families," Martinez said.

Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman came to the protest with her granddaughter. Watson blasted President Trump for being "inhumane, cruel, heartless" for separating children from their parents at the southern border.

"It is hard to find words to describe the policy of separating children from their mothers and fathers as they seek safety from violence and persecution. Words like cruel, inhumane, and heartless have been used, but they fall short. Public outcry led the President to stop ICE from ripping terrified kids away from the only sense of safety that they have, but we cannot afford to quiet down for his bait and switch.

"Instead of caging kids and families separately, he wants to hold them indefinitely — and he has been silent about reuniting the hundreds of children who were separated from their parents over the past several weeks. We have to be the voices of these people who have come here, to a nation of immigrants, for asylum and opportunity... We cannot allow Republicans in Congress and the White House to commit these atrocities," Bonnie Watson Coleman said.

NJ Governor and His Wife Stand With Protesters

First Lady Tammy Murphy, the wife of New Jersey's Governor Phil Murphy, attended the protest. While her husband was busy negotiating the state budget with the Democrat-controlled Legislature and averting a government shutdown, the First Lady spoke her mind.

"As a mother, there is nothing more cruel and inhumane than seeing children ripped apart from their families. The President has made it his mission to tear families apart, but we won't stand for this. Phil and I will continue to fight tooth and nail to protect immigrant rights and the defend the values that our country was founded on," First Lady Tammy Murphy told the assembled protesters.

U.S. Senators Speak Out Against Trump's Policies

Following the First Lady of New Jersey, Robert Menendez and Cory Booker, both U.S. Senators, spoke. The two senators condemned Donald Trump for excessive use of ICE, for tearing apart families, and for not giving Dreamers the opportunity to become legal U.S. citizens.

Menendez said, in part, "We are here to remove the national shame that Trump brought us...We have heard the soulless excuses of a president... Today is not about resistance, today is about insistence! We insist that no child be held in a cage. We insist on the human rights and freedoms that made America the exceptional country it is... But we must be vigilant and make sure that the more than 2,000 children who were torn away from their families at our Southern border reunite with their parents.

"We will not let this President bully us into believing that we should fear immigrant children and families who seek safety and asylum in the United States. Here in New Jersey we believe that the United States must always be a beacon of hope to those fleeing violence and injustice in the darkest corners of the world, and we are proud to say once and for all that families belong together," Menendez said.

Senator Booker reminded the audience how U.S. authorities, during World War II, turned away a ship full of refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe. The ship eventually made its way back to Europe, where most of its passengers disembarked. Upon Nazi Germany's invasion of France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Denmark and Norway, most of the ship's passengers who debarked in Europe, died in the war.

After listening to the speeches, the protesters marched to the Peter Rodino Building, which houses the ICE offices. Standing across the building, protesters raised clenched fists in silence. Then the entire crowd kneeled in silence. Once that was done, the crowd chanted, "Abolish ICE!"

Drums beating, the protesters them marched down Broad Street, then turned on East Kinney Street, then left on Mulberry Street, and finally Green Street, heading back to City Hall.

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