They wore white. They shook their fists in the air. They carried signs reading: “No more children in cages,” and “What’s next? Concentration Camps?”
In major cities and tiny towns, hundreds of thousands of marchers gathered Saturday across America, moved by accounts of children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, in the latest act of mass resistance against President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
Protesters flooded more than 700 marches, from immigrant-friendly cities like New York and Los Angeles to conservative Appalachia and Wyoming. They gathered on the front lawn of a Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas, near a detention center where migrant children were being held in cages, and on a street corner near Trump’s golf resort at Bedminster, New Jersey, where the president is spending the weekend.
Trump has backed away from family separations amid bipartisan and international uproar. His “zero tolerance policy” led officials to take more than 2,000 children from their parents as they tried to enter the country illegally, most of them fleeing violence, persecution or economic collapse in their home countries.
Those marching Saturday demanded the government quickly reunite the families that were already divided. A Brazilian mother separated from her 10-year-old son more than a month ago approached the microphone at the Boston rally.
“We came to the United States seeking help, and we never imagined that this could happen. So I beg everyone, please release these children, give my son back to me,” she said through an interpreter, weeping.
“Please fight and continue fighting, because we will win,” she said.
The crowd erupted.
In Washington, D.C., an estimated 30,000 marchers gathered in Lafayette Park across from the White House in what was expected to be the largest protest of the day, stretching for hours under a searing sun. Firefighters at one point misted the crowd to help people cool off.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the musical “Hamilton,” sang a lullaby dedicated to parents unable to sing to their children. Singer-songwriter Alicia Keys read a letter written by a woman whose child had been taken away from her at the border.
“It’s upsetting. Families being separated, children in cages,” said Emilia Ramos, a cleaner in the district, fighting tears at the rally. “Seeing everyone together for this cause, it’s emotional.”
Around her, thousands waved signs: “I care,” some read, referencing a jacket that first lady Melania Trump wore when traveling to visit child migrants. The back of her jacket said, “I really don’t care, do U?” and it became a rallying cry for protesters Saturday.
“I care!! Do you?” read Joan Culwell’s T-shirt as she joined a rally in Denver.
“We care!” marchers shouted outside Dallas City Hall. Organizer Michelle Wentz says opposition to the Trump administration’s “barbaric and inhumane” policy has seemed to transcend political lines.
“This is the issue crossing the line for a lot of people,” said Robin Jackson, 51, of Los Angeles, who protested with thousands carrying flags, signs and babies.
Singer John Legend serenaded the crowd and Democratic politicians who have clashed with Trump had strong words for the president, including U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters who called for his impeachment.
The president took to Twitter amid the protests, first to show his support for Immigration and Customs Enforcement as some Democrats called for major changes to the agency. Tweeting Saturday from New Jersey, Trump urged ICE agents to “not worry or lose your spirit” and wrote that “the radical left Dems want you out. Next it will be all police.”
He later tweeted that he never pushed House Republicans to vote for immigration overhaul measures that failed last week, contradicting a post three days ago in which he urged GOP congressional members to pass them.
In Trump’s hometown of New York City, another massive crowd poured across the Brooklyn Bridge in sweltering 90-degree heat, some carrying their children on their shoulders, chanting, “Shame!” Drivers honked their horns in support.
“It’s important for this administration to know that these policies that rip apart families—that treat people as less than human, like they’re vermin—are not the way of God, they are not the law of love,” said the Rev. Julie Hoplamazian, an Episcopal priest marching in Brooklyn.
Marchers took to city parks and downtown squares from Maine to Florida to Oregon; in Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico; on the international bridge between El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico; even in Antler, North Dakota, population 27. People braved the heat in Chicago and Atlanta to march.
Some of the demonstrations were boisterous, others were quiet.
Five people were arrested outside an ICE office in Dallas for blocking a road. At least one arrest was made in Columbus, Ohio, when protesters obstructed a downtown street. Light-rail service temporarily shut down in Minneapolis as thousands of demonstrators got in the way of the tracks. A rally in Portland, Maine, grew so large that police had to shut down part of a major street.
But in Dodge City, Kansas, a 100-person rally led by a Catholic church felt more like a mass than a protest.
In rural Marshalltown, Iowa, about 125 people gathered for a march organized by Steve Adelmund, a father of two who was inspired after turning on the news on Father’s Day and seeing children being separated from their families and held in cages.
“It hit me in the heart. I cried,” he said.
“If we can’t come together under the idea of ‘Kids shouldn’t be taken from their parents,’ where are we?” he asked. “We have to speak out now while we can, before we can’t.”
Drum beats and horns sounded as thousands of protesters took to the streets of San Francisco.
“We came here to let the president know that this is not acceptable,” said San Francisco resident Barry Hooper, who attended with his wife and two daughters.
His 7-year-old daughter Liliana clutched a sign she made, saying, “Stop the separation.”
Three thousand miles away in Washington, protesters ended their march at the white-columned Justice Department. They stacked their protest signs, written in English and Spanish, against its grand wooden doors.
“Fight for families,” one sign demanded.
It did not matter whether you were Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, uncertain or somewhere in between on Saturday.
Organizers at the 17th annual Freedom Fest wanted to help their neighbors. It was the unifying thread between the 20 churches that helped put on this year’s event, said the Rev. Earl Sias of All Saints Anglican Church in Janesville.
In addition, dozens of local businesses and organizations loaned volunteers to the celebration, which event organizer and New Life Assembly of God Pastor Jason Karampatsos said is the largest single-day event in Rock County.
Freedom Fest required more than double its usual 400 volunteers this year to accommodate its expanded services. These included the annual grocery giveaway, which went from supplying 500 bags of groceries in the past to 5,000 bags this year.
The increase was made possible with help from Convoy of Hope, an international disaster and community relief support, Karampatsos said. Convoy of Hope supplied the food, which was purchased with money from local corporate sponsors.
In years past, the church ran out of groceries in the first two hours, Karampatsos said. Organizers wanted to help more people this year.
About 100 volunteers began bagging groceries at 7 a.m. Saturday and continued through the day, said Tammy McCaslin Krebs, volunteer leader for the grocery giveaway.
Temperatures cracked 80 degrees by 7 a.m. and reached 90 degrees before noon, according to the National Weather Service.
Volunteers tossed around boxes of cereal and cans of pasta sauce wearing sweat-drenched hats, shirts and headbands, but few people complained. Water bottles circulated in the assembly lines and smiles remained on damp faces.
Referring to themselves as “chronic volunteers,” Diane Wurtz and her fiancee, Patrick Weissinger, said they volunteer regularly through their church and through Wurtz’s workplace, Palmer Dental. They weren’t sure how many boxes of cereal they had bagged by 10 a.m., but it was a lot.
They enjoyed every minute, the couple said.
Debbie McKinney of Janesville came to Freedom Fest with her 7-year old granddaughter, Marissa Grube, and her best friend, Dawn Ebert.
McKinney said she came to Freedom Fest for the free food and to spend time with her granddaughter.
The Janesville woman heard about the food giveaway through her own volunteer ventures. McKinney runs a Facebook group called Hands n’ Hearts of Kindness, where people can post items to donate and others can pick them up for free.
“I can’t see my life not doing this,” she said.
Marissa, donning pink kitty-cat ears and a chocolate mustache, was most looking forward to the rides, she said. A cheerful “meow” summed up the 7-year old’s excitement.
Charitable services at Freedom Fest were expanded this year to include free haircuts, family portraits, medical screenings and children’s shoe fittings, Karampatsos said.
Laura Hess, a cosmetologist at A Glo Spa & Salon in Janesville, said the goal for the 12 volunteer stylists in attendance was to cut hair for 100 people, collectively.
One of Hess’ clients for the day was 12-year-old Samantha Pringle, who said it was a little weird to get her hair cut outside. She was looking forward to hanging out with a friend she hadn’t seen in a while later in the day.
Samantha’s mother, Tina Pringle, got a haircut, too. Normally, Tina cuts her and her children’s hair to save money, she said.
Tina Pringle said she and her family attended New Life Assembly of God for years until her father had a stroke while living in Milwaukee. Life got a bit scattered as she cared for her father, who has since died, she said.
She hopes to start going again soon, she said.
Samantha radiated confidence with her new haircut as she hopped off the barber chair to show her mom.
“We want to make a difference in people’s lives,” Hess said.
Frank W. Bontly
Mary Ann Burki
Mary Jo Commons
David L. Peters
Margaret M. Rogers
Paul W. Schumacher
Robert C. Stair Jr.
Olive S. Ward
Warren Harry Webster
Joanna Marr Baker has lived in her home near the UW-Whitewater campus for 16 years.
She loves the location less than a mile from an elementary school, a middle school and a high school. That’s great for her four children, ages 14, 12, 9 and 5.
The house, however, was bought in “various stages of disrepair,” she said. Marr Baker and her husband, who was a builder, had intended to flip the house. It was a two-bedroom initially, so they have had to make some changes, she said.
The couple also isn’t as enthused about living near a college campus as they might have been 16 years ago with no children, Marr Baker said.
“You don’t always feel that the single families are being respected,” she said.
They’ve been looking for a different home on and off to move for years but haven’t found good options.
They are not alone.
The lack of family housing, particularly single-family housing, has troubled other residents and city officials, too.
Marr Baker said she has friends who have had trouble finding homes. One of them recently moved to Janesville. Another found a place in Milton.
“I think that’s going to be the trend,” she said. “People are moving out, it seems.”
Although they don’t want to, Marr Baker said they, too, have considered leaving Whitewater.
“It’s unfortunate it’s not as easy as it could be,” she said.
City Manager Cameron Clapper has spoken with people who couldn’t find single-family housing in Whitewater. He said it has been an issue in the city for a while.
Given Whitewater’s geographic location and what happened during and after the Great Recession, existing starter homes have been more marketable as rental homes instead of family homes, Clapper said. This is not uncommon near universities, he added.
The city hasn’t had the same subdivision housing growth as surrounding areas. Clapper said some municipalities had to put limits on single-family units to rein in developers.
“That is not the situation we have here,” he said.
UW-W’s growth in the last decade has outpaced the growth in the city’s population, Clapper said, which is relevant to someone deciding to make a property a rental space.
To address the disparity between the high demand for housing and the low supply, a group of Whitewater stakeholders started a subcommittee late last year.
Jeffery Knight, president and CEO of the Greater Whitewater Committee, said they were approached by bankers and Realtors who said they had people looking for homes but couldn’t find any.
The Single-Family Housing Taskforce subcommittee started meeting in November. The task force consisted of the Greater Whitewater Committee, bankers, Realtors, developers, business leaders, city officials and members of the school district.
The task force first heard from UW-Whitewater professor Russ Kashian and economics students, according to the subcommittee’s executive summary.
They presented a study of 594 city, university and school district employees that showed 213—36 percent—of that sample lived in Whitewater. Most of the 594 respondents (487) were with the university.
The study outlined the need for housing and listed the west side as the best place to develop a subdivision, according to the subcommittee’s document.
The presentation from Kashian included data on homes sold in Whitewater from 2000 to 2007 (429), 2008 to 2011 (216) and 2012 to 2017 (306).
In the group’s second meeting, 12 developers shared what they would want and expect to see for a Whitewater single-family development:
Knight believes Whitewater has a lot of the features a community needs to suit families, including an “outstanding” education system, safe streets and family-friendly activities.
“It’s pretty easy to land people in Whitewater,” Knight said. “Again, it really gets to making sure when those people are looking they’re aware of what’s here: why Whitewater is a great place to live, raise your family and work.”
The task force already has brought in tangible results. At the May 15 city council meeting, Loos Custom Homes announced it was buying 13 vacant lots on the city’s northwest side.
Loos Custom Homes, of Johnson Creek, was invited to be a part of the task force and joined, attending every meeting, Knight said.
Loos had been looking in the Jefferson and Waukesha areas, Knight said, but once they saw Whitewater, they were on board.
The task force and the new development were a “direct cause and effect,” he said.
Groundbreaking is scheduled for August. After that, Loos Custom Homes has the option to buy 20 more lots, which could see development starting in 2019, Cory O’Donnell, the company’s director of land development, said in a news release.
To attract more such housing developments, city officials stressed the necessity of marketing.
“Whitewater has so much to offer, and we’ve shown Cory that. Now, we need to show others,” Knight said in the news release announcing the Loos development.
The Greater Whitewater Committee is working with the city to create a booklet of resources that shows off the city and gives contact information for willing property owners.
Clapper is in the process of drafting a letter that will lead the booklet.
The city would send the booklet to several surrounding counties, including Rock, Jefferson, Dane, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Racine, Waukesha and other parts of Walworth. Counties in Illinois such as Lake and McHenry, could also receive the booklet.
The booklet is intended to make the process so easy for developers that they can see it, pick up the phone and “strike a deal,” Knight said.
“We’re really saving these people time and money,” he said.
But the shortage of single-family housing options won’t go away overnight.
Marr Baker loves Whitewater and is hesitant to go elsewhere. The family loves the diversity and how the residents make them feel welcome, she said.
One factor that is “really keeping us here,” is how Whitewater, and especially the university, are so handicap-accessible for her daughter, Marr Baker said. Seeing people like her all around town, including UW-Whitewater’s wheelchair basketball team, means a lot to her daughter.
“We really, really don’t want to (move away),” Marr Baker said. “We really, really, really love the community. And we just don’t want to have to leave it.
“And I don’t think we will,” she said. “It’s just that it’s so frustrating, and I see my friends leaving. And that’s really hard.”