A diverse crowd of protesters stretching three city blocks made their way through the streets of Old Town Eureka on Saturday, peacefully decrying the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy at the border and demanding the reunification of separated families.
As they wound along the route, marchers held aloft handmade signs, some reading "In our America Love is Love," "Together we fight for all" and "Where are all the babies and children?" amid the chants of "I.C.E, I.C.E go away. Caging children is not OK." and "Hey, hey. Ho, ho. I. C. E. has got to go."
Similar Families Belong Together protests took place across the country — with more than 700 held from coast to coast — to call for an end to the detention of some 2,000 children who were taken from their parents, many of whom were seeking asylum in the United States after fleeing violence in Central America.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order June 20 ending the practice and last week a federal judge ordered the reunification of the children within 30 days, earlier if those held are under 6 years old, but thousands still remain in detention centers across the country.
Another protest took place in Eureka on Monday morning, with several dozen people gathering in front of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office.
Among those who turned out Saturday was Linda Anderson, wearing a khaki jacket with the words "I Really Do Care" written on the back, an obvious reference to First Lady Melania Trump's controversial choice to wear one sporting "I REALLY DON'T CARE, DO U?" on a visit to children being held in a Texas detention center.
Walking along with her colleague Betty Macchi, the women said, as early childhood educators, they were brought out to the march by their compassion for the children suffering untold trauma after being separated from their parents.
"This is damage that is not easily undone," Anderson said.
"There are long-lasting consequences," Macchi said in agreement. "We can't allow this to continue. It must stop now."
Similar sentiments were echoed by marcher Peach Bond, a former bilingual education teacher, who said she thinks a "balance needs to be done at the border."
"But, separating a child from their mother's breast is absolutely the last straw for me," she said.
A trio of counter protesters with signs reading "No Illegals" and "Stop Separations. Go Home" had a brief, but terse exchange with a few of the marchers at the end of the route as police and rally volunteers wearing lime green vests stood in between them.
The gathering began at the Madaket Plaza at the foot of C Street with a Native American prayer before several speakers took to the podium, urging action and calling on local government officials to make Humboldt County a sanctuary county.
Renee Saucedo of Centro Del Pueblo Humboldt County reminded the crowd that the United States has a long, dark history of stripping children from their families, while asking why those lessons of the past have still not been learned.
"We are outraged," she said. "We will not allow this continue."
John Driscoll, a field representative for Congressman Jared Huffman, read a statement from the representative and outspoken critic of the president, who said he will continue to take a stand in Washington, D.C., "including denying Trump any funding for family separation and bringing up legislation to give the DREAMers protection and a path to citizenship."
"We have a mixed history in our treatment of immigrants in the United States," the statement read. "We haven't always gotten it right. But most of us still believe that embracing immigrants, many of whom come here seeking refuge or asylum from horrific violence in war-torn counties, is an important part of what makes this country great."
Huffman denounced Trump's actions, saying the president was "trying to change all of that in ways we know are just wrong — denigrating and dehumanizing immigrants and minorities with harmful rhetoric and policies, and trivializing human rights as a core value in our foreign policy."
The congressman urged the marchers "to keep pushing."
"Please, stay engaged, stay organized," Huffman said in the statement, adding. "We are fighting for those who are too young and too vulnerable to fight for themselves. We are also fighting for the soul of our country, because we're better than what we've seen at our borders these past few weeks."
Also taking the podium was Paola Gonzalez, who left her native Colombia with her mother and brother when she was 8 years old, describing the fear and hardship of making her way through the immigration process after the family first stopped in Puerto Rico.
Describing herself as a mother, an immigrant and a warrior, Gonzalez said she remembers the immense fear she felt during the immigration interviews — the fear of deportation, the fear of being separated from her mother, the pressure to smile just right.
"It was terrifying," she said.
In seeing the women now being separated from their children at the border, Gonzalez says she sees her mother, her aunts and herself.
"And I say, enough," she said. "Enough of the false smiles. Enough of the fear. Enough. This is the moment to unite, to resist and to take action."
Editor's note: A version of this story was first posted online June 30 with a photo slideshow from the event.
Kimberly Wear is the assistant editor and a staff writer at the Journal. Reach her at 442-1400, extension 323, or email@example.com.
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