The weekend of protests against the Trump administration’s zero tolerance immigration policy that led to the separation of thousands of children from their parents who are seeking asylum in this country included two separate rallies and a march around the Northwest Detention Center, where some 1,500 immigrants are being held during their asylum review.
“If you want to be part of this struggle, you have to have endurance,” Islamic Center of Tacoma’s Qadir Howard told the crowd of some 1,300 people at the rally at People’s Park on Saturday, noting that people of color and particularly immigrants have faced injustices for generations that are only now entering the national discussion.
The rally was organized by the YWCA Pierce County, Associated Ministries, Centro Latino, Colectiva Legal del Pueblo, HopeSparks, the Islamic Center of Tacoma, Korean Women’s Association, Lutheran Community Services Northwest, Tacoma Community House, Tacoma Migrant Justice, Tacoma Refugee Choir and Tacoma Rainbow Center.
Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-6th District) spoke about meeting women held at the Northwest Detention Center, a private, 1,500-bed facility operated by GEO Group for Immigration and Custom Enforcement, to hear their stories of trying to seek asylum only to be detained and separated from their children.
“Some have no idea where their children are” after weeks, Kilmer said. “I can’t get their sobs out of my head.”
Kilmer had first attempted to visit the detention center a week ago but was not allowed to enter and tour the facility because of an outbreak of chicken pox there forced a quarantine of the facility.
“Black and brown children, babies – these are the victims,” said Alaa Alshaibani at the rally, noting America’s history of slavery of African Americans and the mistreatment of Native Americans through the centuries. “We need to stop being silent.”
The rally at People’s Park came after one at Wright Park earlier Saturday morning and was followed by a protest rally and march at the Occupy Northwest Detention Center movement that were local events of the protest at hundreds of rallies around the nation against President Donald Trump’s zero tolerance policy on immigration that led to families being separated at America’s southern border with Mexico and transported separately to detention facilities around the nation, including ones in Tacoma and SeaTac.
Official estimates state that 2,300 children are being detained away from their parents under a policy that has since been changed but still faces challenges before the families are reunited, sometimes after months of being separated.
The rallies came after protesters outside the Northwest Detention Center received a 24-hour notice from the city to vacate their makeshift encampment, where activists had slept and protested around the clock for several days. Protests earlier in the week had turned violent, leading to the arrest of 10 protesters. All but two of them, however, were released without charges. The two protesters who were charged with third-degree assault, resisting arrest and obstructing police, are Willem Van Sporen and Ezra Benner.
The city ordered the protestors to remove their tents because they were blocking the public right of way along the largely unused sidewalk. The order also prompted the Puyallup Tribe to issue a statement that it never asked the protesters to leave the area, which falls within the reservation borders that span most of the Tideflats.
“Contrary to reports, the Puyallup Tribe of Indians did not ask the immigration policy protestors to leave their camp outside the Northwest Detention Center on Thursday, June 28,” the statement said. “The Tribe does not support the location of the Northwest Detention Center in the Port of Tacoma and we also strongly oppose the for-profit corporation, The GEO Group, for profiting from the separation of immigrant families. The Puyallup Tribal Council calls on our federal leaders to pass thoughtful immigration reform and immediately stop the human injustices that we’re witnessing across the country.”