On June 30, thousands of protesters flocked to Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., to participate in the Families Belong Together rally and march. They were there to protest the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, and about 750 similar demonstrations took place across the United States on Saturday.
Demonstrators led a march that passed the White House, where they crowded in front of tall black gates, clapping and chanting. In sweltering heat, they also made stops at the Trump International Hotel and the Department of Justice.
Among the protesters were mothers, grandmothers, teachers and students. Some came with families, holding toddlers, pushing strollers and hoisting up signs. All of them had one thing in common: They were horrified that children were separated from their asylum-seeking parents at the border and held in detention centers.
We spoke to eight people about why they attended the rally in D.C. Here’s what they said:
“I brought both of my sons here today,” Rita Montoya said. “They are 2 and 4 years old. We are children and grandchildren of immigrants. I brought them here because they need to understand that it’s important we all band together to help everybody. These are all our kids, and those kids look just like my kids.”
During a speech, the crowd applauded and shouted loudly. Montoya’s sons looked around, clinging to their mother’s leg. “There’s going to be a lot of loud sounds,” Montoya told them gently. “But don’t be afraid. Everyone here is our friend.”
“I’ve seen what’s happening, and I don’t have any sort of institutional power, but I do have power as a citizen to make it clear that I don’t think it is acceptable to detain children ... and to separate families,” Katie Hyde, 25, said. She held up a plain white sign with the words “Don’t be complicit” written in bright red caps.
“I’m here to help support this because it’s wrong to what they’re doing to the children,” Wannassita Kamequkua Neves, 14, said. “It’s happened to my people, and I want to stand up for something and participate in it.”
“Back in 1979, my family fled Nicaragua, and I was separated from my parents for five months while they had to stay back and I had to come to the U.S.,” Carmen Chavarria, 41, said. “I found out later that I had PTSD, that I would wake up screaming, and I had to be sedated to go to sleep. That is why I’m here. I don’t remember it, but I know what these children have in their future.”
“I was adopted so when I was brought here, I had all these opportunities,” Maya Pingho, 18, said. “This was a dream come true for me, but that should be the same for these kids.”
“I think coming from a first-generation American household, this is important to me because my ancestors weren’t being heard and it hurt them,” Amani Marar, 20, said. “It’s only right for me to speak for those who aren’t being heard.”
“I’m a human being, and I don’t want to see any human being treated less than me because I had the privilege to be born in this country during its golden age,” Bonnie Messina, 71, said. “If people want asylum here, it’s their right to seek asylum here. It’s our legacy to accept them here.”
Klara Bilgin, 45, carried a large poster featuring a Time magazine cover. “Ripped Apart,” the headline read.
“This is the first Time cover that showcased the situation with the immigrants at the border before the border crisis started with the separation of families,” Bilgin said. “I felt that it is so un-American and so wrong, and so inhumane.”
“I came here legally, as an immigrant,” Bilgin added. “I feel that we have this opportunity, and we have to give it to others.”