Nationwide "Families Belong Together Rally" in Santa Barbara
By Robert Bernstein
"Families Belong Together" was the rally and theme Saturday at De La Guerra Plaza. Followed by a march up State Street. This was the second time in less than two weeks and the numbers were massive. Event organizers estimated 2,000 people.
Here are all of my photos and a video!
Hundreds of thousands more rallied in over 700 cities the same day. President Trump had ordered children be taken from families at the border who were legally seeking asylum. This was an unprecedented increase of anti-immigrant action by the Trump Administration and it created outrage among even many Trump supporters. While Trump has been forced to back down from new family separations, most of the same policies are still in place.
It did not help when First Lady Melania Trump wore a jacket reading "I REALLY DON'T CARE DO U?"
A number of rally signs responded to this
"Papa Papa Where Are You?" refers to chilling recordings of children who were crying out for their parents
Folk music welcomed people as they gathered
The rally convened with Native American musician Emiliano Campobello performing his Sacred Winds Music
Trinity Episcopal Church priest Art Stevens gave one of the first speeches
His talk and several others were also interpreted into Spanish by a volunteer interpreter
Reverend Stevens spoke of his work accompanying families of Latino youth in Juvenile Court. "Often there were about 20 families, most of whose adults spoke little English and were very scared. I often was the only white person there except for the judge and one pro bono attorney. My presence seemed to offer the parents and youth at least some comfort.
"Now, why were there so many Latino and so few white defendants? Perhaps because sheriffs don't stop white kids going home from school to ask what they are doing, and (however innocent the answer) make a record of the stop that might be used against them later and call their attention to the Sheriff and ICE?"
He went on to tell a harrowing story of a young man with an otherwise clean record who had been picked up for a misdemeanor. He had completed his sentence of community service, but was then turned over to ICE. He was sent to Adelanto Detention Center 3 1/2 hours away. It took extraordinary effort on the part of Reverend Stevens and a kind Muslim banker to get the young man released on "only" $10,000 bond.
Event organizer Michal Lynch carefully planned the schedule to keep things moving as sound man Gary Atkins stood by and the next speaker stood ready behind her.
The next speaker was a Nigerian-American woman named Uru who talked about choosing our words wisely. She is the Youth Ambassador for our United Nations Association of Santa Barbara and Tri-Counties.
She explained that words like "them" and "those people" create divisions. We are all one people. Only a small minority of people mean harm. The problem is when others stand by and do nothing. We must speak up when we hear divisive language. She then went on to sing a song.
Christina Pizarro of Democratic Women of Santa Barbara County asked people in the crowd to raise their hand if they or their ancestors had come here fleeing terror and oppression.
Many people, including me, raised our hands. She had a simple message: Don't Cage Our Children
Two men asked to take the stage together and they were given the chance. One was wrapped in the American flag and he said he had been brought to the US at age 4 from Mexico. His message to others in his situation: You are not alone!
The other man was from Peru. He has two children. They "jumped the border." He said each round of immigrants to the US faced discrimination. When the Irish came in large numbers, no one wanted to hire them. But eventually Irish-American John F. Kennedy became president.
He noted that there are few brown people at the rally. He said they are scared. He said that is not right. "You are America. Not that orange man!"
The rally began at 11AM. Then, at around 12:20PM, the rally turned into a march up State Street, complete with police escort.
There were many signs, mostly hand made.
"Families Belong Together"
"Think Globally: Reject Intolerance and Bullying"
"In Our America Love Wins"
Bullying was a theme on other signs, too
"HUMAN and KIND - Be Both!"
This young woman expressed the hope of immigrant students
A number of signs urged people to vote Democratic and Vote out the GOP in November
"Abolish ICE" (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). ICE was one of the agencies created in the flurry of fear after 9/11. Before that there was one agency - The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) - which handled all such matters. INS had the word "Service" not "Enforcement" in its name.
Here we see "Abolish ICE" along with
"Choose One: __Socialism or __Barbarism"
The original Humanist Manifesto I was published in 1933 during the Great Depression, written largely by Unitarian ministers. They made a similar claim. The brief Manifesto had fifteen points. The fourteenth read:
"The humanists are firmly convinced that existing acquisitive and profit-motivated society has shown itself to be inadequate and that a radical change in methods, controls, and motives must be instituted. A socialized and cooperative economic order must be established to the end that the equitable distribution of the means of life be possible. The goal of humanism is a free and universal society in which people voluntarily and intelligently cooperate for the common good. Humanists demand a shared life in a shared world."
You can read the full Humanist Manifesto I here
"Immigrants can't be taking our jobs AND living on welfare - Pick your lie!"
This sign simply quotes the poem on the Statue of Liberty welcoming the tired and poor
"Seeking Asylum is Not a Crime" along with the horrors faced in detention
"Seeking Asylum is Not a Crime" along with the first of many referring to Trump's policy that put children in cages and suggested Trump and/or his own children be caged
A number of signs were about "Shame"
A group of women with their children and baby strollers gathered around a sign asking for protection from "Monsters" (Trump and members of his Administration)
Hike leader Diane Soini revived a symbol of 1960s peace with "Fascism is not Healthy for Children and other Living Things"
Someone else had a similar idea
Fascism was a concern of many
This sign suggests the real threat to our country is Racism, Lack of Empathy and Propagation of Hate
Mayor Cathy Murillo brought up the rear
Along with a woman reminding us that we are a nation of immigrants
President Trump's immigration policies are part of his mind set that we are at war with the whole world. That even our closest allies and trading partners are our enemies. This is counterproductive in every way for those who want America to succeed, not to mention the humanitarian cost.
His trade war has sent the stock exchange into a nose dive for months now. Companies like General Motors and Harley Davidson are warning that Trump's tariffs are actually going to force them to move operations abroad, causing job cuts in the US.
Paranoia may be good for winning an election. It is not a way to run a country.
The best way to stop refugees from coming to the US is to undo the damage done by over 150 years of brutal exploitation and interference in the countries of Central America. The refugees are not the enemy. They are the victims.
Most US "aid" in the developing world is really just corporate welfare for US industries to dump surplus goods at taxpayer expense. The US is one of the least generous when it comes to foreign assistance, giving less than one seventh as much per capita as Norway. Investing in true foreign assistance brings material dividends as well as humanitarian rewards. And less refugees.
In any case, by some measures the US is suffering from a shortage of immigrants. Millions of dollars of crops spoiled in the fields in Santa Barbara County alone last year due to a lack of farm labor.
As this sign says so well: "We are All in this Together!"
I will close with one more thought: Trump has created these massive protests by targeting children. But adult immigrant lives matter, too. Many immigrants have lived in the shadows in the US for decades, waiting for some kind of immigration policy to allow them to assimilate legally. Most work hard and pay taxes (without legally being able to file for tax refunds.)
If we think of other crimes, almost all have a statute of limitations. If crossing the border is a crime, why not treat it like any other crime? The government should have a certain number of years to prosecute the crime. After that, a person who otherwise is law abiding is generally allowed to live in peace. Why should immigration be any different?