More than 10,000 protesters gathered at Foley Square in downtown Manhattan Saturday morning to march against the Trump administration’s immigration policies that have resulted in the separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The New York march was part of a nationwide series of rallies organized by advocacy groups, legal and immigrants’ rights organizations, trade unions, and concerned citizens.
Protesters from across the country converged on the square in 90-degree weather to make their way across the Brooklyn Bridge.
The crowd comprised a diverse range of ages, walks of life, and religious backgrounds, with one common goal: to show solidarity with immigrant families.
Julia Spande said she was rallying because she was “disgusted” at seeing innocent children taken from their parents.
She demanded “legislative action to reunite families,” but distrusted whether Trump’s executive order would actually do so. Trump said his executive action, signed June 20, would end family separation, but already more than 2,300 children had been separated and the success of any reunification efforts is unclear.
Betsy Waters said it was “absurd” parents were having to go to court to get their children back. “These children should be given back immediately. No courts, no fingerprinting, no background screening. They stole them — they need to give them back.”
Madeleine Markowski and Michaela Ridini traveled from Seattle to be at the rally. Mankowski, who was joining the New York City Democratic Socialists, said people were more mobilized than in 2016, and “paying attention” to what was going on — but she feared things would “get worse before they got better.”
That didn’t concern Quaker Kathy Stackhouse of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, who held a sign saying “Love Thy Neighbor.”
“It took generations to end the slave trade,” she said. “This may take generations too.”
Stackhouse said governments had been launching “campaigns of fear against people who aren’t like us since the 1980s. We’re in it for the long haul.”
Christine Santistaban was marching with St. Francis Xavier, a Roman Catholic Manhattan church.
“We’re here to take a stand,” she said. “I think this is one issue where you do have to pick a side. ... Jesus would be crying along with us at the borders. Jesus is crying with the families being torn apart.”
Sixteen-year-old Ava Sojourner Desantis said it was important for the younger generation to make their presence felt at the events.
She wanted representatives to know “when I can vote, I will be … [and] we will disturb the balance. My generation will vote.”
The very young were mobilizing too: Desantis was at the rally with her mother, Barbara Collins, and her younger siblings. Her father, Michael DeSantis, carried a message straight from the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
“Our future is with our children,” Collins said.
Another mother in the crowd, Sarayu Huang, was at the rally with her infant son Rohann. She said she was devastated by what she saw on TV and what she heard.
“As a mom, I can’t imagine what that would be like," Huang said. "And I think it’s horrible that a country which welcomed me as an immigrant would do this to other people trying to do the same thing I was when I came here.”
Janine Harper was with her daughter Lily Bushelle, 8, who made the decision to come to the rally.
Lily held a sign she had made herself which read “let’s stop talking about it and let’s do something about it.”
“It makes me feel sad,” Lily said. “Donald Trump should be ashamed of himself.”
Harper, a first-generation immigrant from Jamaica, said she came to America for a better life for her and her child.
“Hope captures the attention of lawmakers, and gives courage to the oppressed to stand up for things,” she said.
“Don’t give up on America… hopefully we will come back to our senses soon.”