This article was originally published for Straus News.
July 2, 2018
In 90-degree heat Saturday, thousands marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to protest the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant families at the country’s southern border.
Protesters convened midmorning in Foley Square and from there headed to the bridge, many holding signs with phrases such as “families belong together” and “where are the children?” Families with young children showed up, and old and young marched and volunteered.
Volunteers from Neighbors Link, a Westchester-based nonprofit that works to integrate immigrants into the community, marched across the Brooklyn Bridge with a long banner. Jeremy Sussman, 50, of Bedford Hills, said that immigrants made America the country it is, and that the country should be more welcoming to immigrants than it is now. “That’s what keeps America vibrant,” Sussman said. “That’s what makes America a great country to be in.”
The protest, which locally was sponsored by dozens of organizations, including the New York Immigration Coalition, the American Civil Liberties Union and Sanctuary for Families, was part of the Keep Families Together rallies that drew tens of thousands across the nation Saturday
After crossing the bridge, protesters gathered in Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza Park. People gathered in the shade and surrounded the main stage to listen to speakers. A kid’s station provided paper and markers for children to draw and play.
Speakers included leaders of unions and nonprofits. They urged people to vote, to call elected officials and to keep informed. Talks went on for roughly two hours, during which marchers continued streaming into the park. The last batch of them had left Foley Square just after noon.
Actors Kerry Washington, Padma Lakshmi and Amy Schumer also spoke to the crowd. Washington, a mother of two, called family separation a gross violation of human rights and led the crowd in a chant of “I matter, we matter. I am the people, we are the people.”
“I love this country because it has the potential to be a more perfect union,” Washington said. “But do you know what it means to be a more perfect union? It means you. It means us. It means to believe in the idea that we matter. Every single one of us.”
Washington called on the protesters to be strong, said that their fight would be a marathon. She then spoke on her own experience and anger about the practice of family separation.
“I am here as a lot of things today,” Washington said. “I am here as an American. I’m here as a woman who’s concerned about my ability to control my body. I’m here as the granddaughter of immigrants. I’m here as the member of a union. I am also here as a mother — and as a mother, I am outraged.”
She joked that her day job is to read the words of other people, and she then read an affidavit by a mother whose son was held at an immigration center. Washington asked the crowd to keep the mother and all the families in their hearts.
“This isn’t about politics,” Washington said. “This is about people.”