Thousands gather at Boston City Hall against separating immigrant families

All photos by author.

An estimated 5,000 marchers gathered at City Hall Plaza just before noon last Saturday, June 30, to protest current immigration policies. The march was one of many hosted in several cities across the nation,  in part sparked by photos coming from a processing detention center in McAllen, Texas, as well as stories of family separation along the southern border.

“It’s hard to see how families are being seperated,” Doris Anaverde told Spare Change News. “It’s not fair how they treat the children.”

Anaverde, a member of SEIU and a Salvadoran immigrant, was one of many organizers who made the day’s march possible.

“We worked hard to make this happen,” she said. “We had to educate and talk to the people about what’s going on.”

Saturday’s protest, called “Together & Free Rally Against Family Separation,” was organized by the Massachusetts Jobs with Justice Coalition, and in conjunction with several other organizations, including SEIU, the Muslim Justice League, Anti-Racism Collaborative, local chapters of the ACLU and ATF and many others.

The rally was kicked off with a set of speakers stationed in front of the Kennedy Federal Building, including migrants and advocacy group representatives who expressed distaste with the current administration’s policies regarding detaining and separating families. Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren and Representative Joe Kennedy also spoke, encouraging marchers and praising their attendance.

“You cannot beg for freedom, you have to fight for freedom,” Sen. Markey said to the protesters, to which they responded with a resounding cheer.

During her speech, Sen. Warren called for severe policy change. “The president’s deeply immoral action has made it obvious that we need to rebuild our current immigration system from top to bottom, starting with replacing ICE with something that reflects our morality and values,” she said.

“We cannot be silent,” she continued. “We will build a country that reflects our values. That is why we are here.”

Some groups unaffiliated with the rally’s organizers also attended in solidarity. Rebecca Lee, a doctor from the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, was one of the many health care providers that came together for the protest  wearing their white coats and scrubs.

“Separating kids from families, and now, locking them up essentially, is really traumatic,” Lee said. “And we all know, from our medical education, that really traumatic childhood experiences lead to poor health outcomes later in life.”

Local members of Veterans for Peace were also in attendance, but instead of listening to speakers, they kept look out for possible clashes with counter protesters.

While the protest itself remained peacefully, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department reported that 20 arrests were made without incident. A small disturbance occurred between the plaza’s exits and the Government Center T-Stop Entrance, where 6 men, donning dark clothing and blue ski masks, blocked  the procession of marchers moving out of City Hall Plaza and towards Boston Commons. The counter protestors were part of the Boston Free Speech organization, and told the crowd that policies they were protesting had already been ended by the president.

Many individual protesters simply felt compelled by media reports and photos to attend Saturday’s march despite the high temperature that day .

“I heard this was happening, and I just had to be here,” said Massachusetts resident Julia Lieberman. “I am able be here, and I have to be here for people who can’t be here.”

“I think the more pressure  we put on these politicians, the more tension we put on them,the more people we make uncomfortable, that’s when change really happens,” she continued.

Earlier this year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new “zero-tolerance policy” in regards to any person attempting to enter the country illegally, a response to a reported 203 percent increase in illegal border crossings in the past year. President Trump signed an executive order to end the controversial policy about two weeks ago, and  policy makers and protesters are continuing to demand additional reform since it is unclear how separated families will be reunited.

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