Washington : Thousands of Americans from all walks of life took to the streets of cities across the US and chanted “families belong together”, nearly two months after President Donald Trump implemented the “zero tolerance” policy toward undocumented immigrants, prompting the separation of thousands of children from their parents.
The main rally on Saturday was in Washington, D.C., but hundreds of marches, protests and rallies took place across the country in major cities like New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Milwaukee, Denver, Miami, St. Louis, San Francisco and Los Angeles, where crowds called for the immediate reunification of migrant families and an end to family detentions and separations, reports CNN.
According to organisers, the protesters called for three demands: they want separated migrant families to be reunited immediately; they want the government to end family detentions; and they want the Trump administration to end its zero tolerance policy.
Attendees in Washington marched from Lafayette Square to the White House — though the President is at his golf resort in New Jersey — and down Pennsylvania Avenue, past the Trump Hotel, where chants of “Shame! Shame! Shame!” broke out.
In Atlanta, demonstrators carried cages with dolls inside, and marchers in Chicago encouraged each other to “fight back”.
In New York, protesters overflowed Foley Square in Lower Manhattan and filled the surrounding sidewalks. Crowds also inched across the Brooklyn Bridge for more than two hours.
Protesters in Houston chanted, “No baby jails”, outside City Hall. Crowds gathered in McAllen, Texas, the border town where one of the Customs and Border Protection agency’s processing detention centres sits.
Several celebrities joined the rallies, including singer-songwriter John Legend, who sang his song “Preach” at a demonstration in Los Angeles, veteran singer Cher who encouraged people to vote in November, actresses Kerry Washington and Amy Schumer marched in New York while singer Alicia Keys performed in Washington.
Many attendees carried signs, some demanding a change to the administration’s policy, others celebrating the contributions that immigrants make to the country.
There were also plenty of signs and shirts declaring, “I really do care, do u?” — a dig at the jacket First Lady Melania Trump wore while departing for a trip to the southwest border last week.
Event organisers said Saturday’s protests were about addressing an ethical issue.
“This is not left or right,” Anna Galland, Executive Director of MoveOn.org, one of the organisations leading Saturday’s protests, told CNN.
“It is right and wrong.”
Galland said she and Indian American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal put out a call for protests less than two weeks ago and they were “overwhelmed” by the response.
Jayapal, who was also arrested during a similar protest at the Senate office building last week, said: “This is beyond politics… You don’t put kids in cages. You don’t separate breastfeeding babies from their mothers. You don’t put asylum-seekers in prison, and we’re calling for an end to that today.”
More than 2,500 undocumented children were separated from their parents in the weeks since the zero-tolerance policy took effect, reports CNN.
Under the policy, any adult caught crossing the border illegally faced prosecution and their children were sent to federal shelters all over the US.
There were widespread outrage over the separations which prompted Trump to sign an executive order on June 20 reversing the family separation policy.
Six days after that order was signed, only six children had been reunited with their parents — meaning more than 2,000 children were still in limbo.