Protesters march to end family separation at the border
Standing by her father's side, 9-year-old Nora Winslow held a sign she made herself in front of the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office on June 30. It was all about sending the message she wrote on her sign: “Keep Families Together.”
It was also the title of a protest attended by more than 150 people in Dartmouth and thousands of others at events throughout the country, organized after weeks of criticism of the practice of separating children and families who had entered the country illegally at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The issue struck a nerve with even the younger participants like Winslow.
“It’s unfair they’re being separated when they are just trying to help themselves,” she said.
According to the protest website, moveon.org, the goal is to send a message to President Donald Trump that he must permanently end the separation of children and families, reunify those already separated, and end the “family internment camps."
Protesters gathered at the sheriff's office, who included locals and many vacationers, agreed on this platform, as they chanted “Keep Families Together,” and held signs reading “All People Deserve Humanity,” “Immigrants Make our Country Safer and Stronger,” “Restore Decency: Vote 2018,” and “This Isn’t The Land of the Free Until They Are all Free.”
Passing motorists on Faunce Corner Road beeped in support of the protesters, one of whom was holding a sign reading “Honk to Abolish ICE.”
The location of the protest was significant, as the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office also runs an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center on its Dartmouth campus. The detention center has a maximum capacity of about 220 detainees.
After a period of time on the street, the protesters marched onto the grounds and to the building which is believed to hold the ICE detainees.
“Say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcome here,” the group chanted outside the facility.
After about 15 minutes protesting directly outside the detention center, protesters were initially told that they could continue as long as they didn’t disturb those going to visit inmates, but then were ushered back up to the street, before being told to stand on the other side of the road.
Sara Arbour of Taunton said she read the recent article published on The Intercept highlighting allegations of immigrant abuse at ICE detention centers, which specifically cited Bristol County.
The report detailed a specific incident in which a guard at the Dartmouth facility allegedly told a detainee "no one will believe baboon complaints" after the man tried to file a complaint after an officer tried to get him to cage fight another detainee.
“I shared it, and I can guarantee that there is someone in my Facebook network whose friend or family member works here,” Arbour said. “So then you’re either a participant or a witness, and that’s so disturbing to me. They’re participating in the dehumanization.”
Sumaiyea Uddin of Fall River said she was there “to bring families together again and make sure that they’re free.”
She acknowledged Trump said he would bring families together, but they are still incarcerated.
“That’s not America,” Uddin said. “That’s not okay.”
"We’re here because none of us would want to be separated from our children, and it’s traumatic for the children,” said Ron, a protester who did not wish to give his last name.
It was Margo O’Brien's first ever protest. She lives in Switzerland, and was there with her friend Jill Stanzler-Kat
“We happened to be here with friends for the weekend,” Stanzler-Katz explained. “I felt like I couldn’t be just enjoying the weather without doing something today.”
Several members of the Little Compton Sakonet Peace Alliance were there, including Mark Strauss, who saw this protest as part of a history of activism.
“How things changed in the sixties is people became active,” Strauss said. “This is how we ended up with civil rights, this is how we ended the Vietnam War sooner than we would have otherwise. And that’s what’s hopefully starting to happen now. People are beginning to raise their voices and stand out on the street. That’s how it happens.”
Back on the street, the protesters were encouraged by more honks from cars, and replied with cheers while several officers looked on.