At Berkeley’s protest against federal immigration policies Saturday, demonstrators’ signs demanded ICE be “crushed,” “put in a deep freezer” and, less metaphorically, “abolished.”
The around 1,500 people who flooded MLK Jr. Civic Center Park joined crowds around the country protesting the Trump administration’s separation of immigrant families and detention of children.
The “Families Belong Together” protests were organized by groups including the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and MoveOn, and in Berkeley facilitated by Indivisible.
Saturday’s demonstrations were planned before a federal judge in California ordered the reunification of the over 2,000 families separated under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy. However, questions remain about how and when those families will be brought together, and what will happen to other undocumented families detained at the US-Mexico border from now on.
Starting at noon, Berkeley protesters responded energetically to speeches by activists, local elected officials and religious leaders, translated to or from Spanish. They held up a range of inventive signs, and many brought children in strollers or on their shoulders.
State Senator Nancy Skinner said the family-separation policy follows in the footsteps of the country’s most condemned historical travesties, including slavery, the removal of Native American children and Japanese American internment.
Berkeley-based political singing group Occupella provided a musical interlude, leading a bilingual, customized version of a classic protest song. “Down with private prisons, we shall not be moved,” and “He who shall be nameless, he will be removed,” went some of the lyrics.
An Indivisible representative, calling on the demonstrators to phone-bank and vote President Donald Trump and his allies out of office, tailored her message to the local audience.
“There are a lot of different opinions — obviously, this is Berkeley — and you might not love the Democrats,” she said. “What we’re saying is there needs to be a check on the Republican administration.”
Standing in the sunny park with her family, protester Nora Martinez said the separation of children from their parents hit home for her.
“I migrated with my mom when I was 6,” said Martinez. “Now that I have a kid, I hate having her go through this now. It might not directly affect her, but she sees it in the media. As small as a protest can be, we’re making a wave with all the other marches.”
Closer to the stage, a group of seniors held signs that said “Elder Action.”
Marcia Freedman said the group, affiliated with Ashby Village, hopes to spark a national movement.
“Most of us have been activists in the 60s, 70s and 80s,” said Freedman, a women’s and LGBTQ rights advocate who served on the Israeli Knesset in the 1970s. “We now have time, resources and a lot of energy.”
After the hour-long protest, many of the demonstrators tucked their signs under their arms and went to shop at the neighboring farmers market.
Felipe Ocampo, program manager for all Berkeley farmers markets, said Saturday’s had extra staffing, a lesson learned from previous political rallies and clashes in the park. In April 2017, the market was canceled due to concerns around a right-wing rally and the response. Ocampo said he was pleased the Families Belong Together rally was “a complete success.”
“The group that organized it did a very good job involving all the stakeholders,” Ocampo said. “Not only are people able to [politically] resist, but also support healthy, local food systems.”
Parallel protests occurred throughout the Bay Area at the same time as Berkeley’s, including demonstrations at Oakland’s Lake Merritt, at an ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) detention facility in Richmond, and in San Francisco.