Protesters gather in Berkeley for ‘Families Belong Together’ rally

Manooshree Patel/Staff

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About 1,500 protesters gathered Saturday in Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park to join nationwide rallies against the federal policy of separating families crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

The protest was one of many held across the U.S., and was held in response to President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which can involve separating children from their parents as they cross the border.

Speakers took the stage, flanked by a Spanish language translator on one side and a sign language translator on the other. Immigration lawyer Juan Camilo Mendez Guzman chose to tell the stories of individual immigrants seeking asylum, before encouraging action.

“Remind your members of Congress who they represent,” Mendez Guzman said to the crowd. “This is not the time to be silent — it’s the time to stand up for what’s right.”

The rally drew a crowd of all ages, from toddlers in strollers to protesters carrying signs declaring “Elder Action.” Others held signs with slogans such as “Let Them In, Kick Him Out” and “Children deserve warm love, not ICE cages.”

Speakers from Indivisible Berkeley, such as Daron Sharps, facilitated the event and focused on taking political action to “check” the authority of the Trump administration. Members of Indivisible Berkeley were in the crowd with sign-up sheets to get attendees involved in its actions.

“We must challenge the status quo when the status quo is children in cages, crawling across courtroom tables where they must defend themselves,” Sharps said during the rally.

Some attendees were part of political activism groups that regularly protest Trump. Others attendees who do not regularly attend protests, such as Nancy Gillette, were stirred by this particular event to take action.

She came clad in a dark green jacket, on which she had painted the words “I really do care, why don’t u?” This referenced First Lady Melania Trump’s visit to a detention center while wearing a green jacket that read, “I really don’t care, do u?”

Part of Gillette’s motivation for attending, she said, was the visibility of a nationwide protest.

“When I first found out, I could not do anything but just cry,” Gillette said. “It’s beyond heartbreaking.”

These feelings of anger and helplessness, echoed throughout the crowd, were met with displays of hope and calls to action. Two young girls weaved through the crowd with their mother, handing flowers to everyone in their path. The a capella band Occupella drew the audience into a song.

“Take everything you feel and think about how to turn that into action,” said Jaime Mulligan, a member of Indivisible Berkeley, at the protest. “The next step is going from thinking that things should change to being the people who change it.”

Madeleine Gregory covers city government. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @mgregory_dc.