Protestors oppose Trump detention, family separation policies
August 2, 2019

Photos by Andrew Adams
A large crowd was on hand during the protest and speeches in Daley Plaza.

By Andrew Adams

Protesters from dozens of Chicago area activist groups blocked several streets in the Loop on July 13 to protest the Trump administration’s detention and family separation policies as well as its immigration policies generally.

Demonstrators met at the Daley Center Plaza on Washington Street at 11 a.m., where the group Indivisible Chicago held a rally. They then blocked sections of Clark and Dearborn Streets as they marched and demonstrated outside the Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) field office.

A committee of representatives from several activist, social, and legal organizations planned the protest, including Indivisible Chicago, Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, Planned Parenthood Illinois Action, Women’s March Chicago, and others.

Marj Halperin, an Indivisible Chicago representative, estimated attendance at the march to be between 10,000 and 12,000. 

The protest focused on immigration with specific calls for congressional action to regulate ICE and for ending all forms of local support for and cooperation with ICE. Protesters’ demands also included uniting families separated at the Mexico-United States border during border crossings. 

Marchers carried signs with the hashtags #NeverAgainIsNow and #CloseTheCamps in reference to comparisons among ICE detention centers, Nazi concentration camps, and U.S. internment camps where the Federal government held Japanese-Americans during World War II. 

Immigrant ancestry

Protesters also carried signs describing their own immigrant ance-stry, likening white supremacy to terrorism and calling for President Donald Trump’s impeachment. 

Speakers at the rally included Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton, who formerly was 10th District State Rep in this area, and Congressman Jesus “Chuy” Garcia of the 4th District. Stratton emphasized she and Governor JB Pritzker do not approve of the Trump administration’s immigration policies. 

“I’m just as proud to say I stand with all our immigrant and refugee communities,” Stratton said, adding, “I hope you will join the fight against mass incarceration and the criminalization of black and brown communities.”

Stratton’s comments came days after Pritzker signed the Keep Illinois Families Together Act, which limits how much State of Illinois law enforcement may collaborate with ICE. 

During Garcia’s remarks, he said, “Our elected officials need to do more. These detention centers need to be shut down now.” 

Birdie Park brought a traditional Korean buk drum and marched with the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium.

‘Lives changed forever’

A survivor from the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, Tonko Doi, also spoke during the rally. Offering a deeply personal story, Doi said, “For 120,000 Japanese Americans, our lives were changed forever.”

Speakers at the protest made frequent comparisons between the current situation at the southern border and camps during the 1940s that held Japanese-Americans. 

The rally also included music performed by Michael McDermott and a live DJ set leading up to the program’s speaking portion.

The rally’s first speaker, Rabbi Brant Rosen, used a modified shabbat prayer as a refrain. He stood with a multifaith coalition of priests, imams, rabbis, and other religious leaders from throughout the Chicago area.

‘Jesus was a refugee’

The Rev. Eric Biddy, a priest for St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Oak Park, stood with Rosen during the invocation. He described his attendance at the protest by saying, “I come to these things because Jesus was a refugee. The family fled a tyrant. I come here every time one of these happens because this is where Jesus is.” 

Representatives from other religious traditions also participated. The Chicago Chapter of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship conducted a session of silent prayer and meditation. Several members wore traditional rakusu, a garment worn to signify devotion in Zen Buddhism. 

Protestors flooded the Loop on July 13, objecting to the Trump administration policies on immigration and family separation.

Cultural organizations also made their presence known. Birdie Park marched with the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium. She brought a traditional buk drum. Park, along with a half dozen other representatives, played it to traditional Korean rhythms throughout the protest.

“One of our main values is to know our culture,” Park said. “We use our cultural music as protest.” 

Katie Moncton is a suburban mother who spent most of the rally chasing around a rambunctious toddler. She attended with her husband, a bandleader with the musical group Sousaphones Against Hate, who played songs from popular movies such as Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and Jaws

Moncton explained why she brought her child to the protest by saying, “We’ve been to a few protests. You’ve got to start them young.” She added “this is about families” in reference to the Trump administration’s policy of family separation. 

Volunteers in bright safety vests helped manage the event’s flow, with some forming a barrier between the stage and the crowd, some setting pace for the march, and some acting as impromptu traffic guards when the crowd grew too large for Daley Plaza.

Police and emergency responders were present throughout the protest, blocking streets and helping with crowd management. No major conflicts occurred between police and demonstrators. 

The protest occurred in the context of recently announced raids by ICE throughout the country targeting immigrant families starting the weekend of July 12 through 14.

Protests about the Trump administration’s immigration policies have become increasingly common recently throughout the country. Jewish and Japanese Americans represent the driving force because they see their own histories reflected in today’s political climate. Large protests have occurred in Boston, Los Angeles, New Jersey, Washington, DC, and Philadelphia.

Police made no arrests at the Chicago protest. 

For Indivisible Chicago, log on to www.indivisiblechicago.com.