Dozens of parents–mothers and fathers–traveled with children in tow, including many infants, to the offices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement today in order to protest thousands of family separations that have occurred as a result of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.
Under the banner of #OccupyICE, protesters calmly chanted “Families and children deserve to be safe,” while crammed into the small hallway of ICE’s New York City field office. Freelance journalist Emma Whitford documented the ninth floor demonstration.
At one point, a call-and-response was performed as a protest leader elucidated the reason for the protest and a chorus of additional protesters echoed her words. She said:
We are here today with our babies and family because we could not sit by and do nothing. Our children are here because they know the truth. Locking up families is wrong.
At another point, protesters filed through the halls of the field office in a group rendition of the freedom song “Woke Up This Morning (With My Mind Stayed On Freedom).” The song is a civil rights version of the old gospel number “I woke up this morning with my mind stayed on Jesus.” Other songs included “Which Side Are You On?” a well-known unionist hymn.
Throughout the demonstration, various DHS officials shuffled past, mostly without incident. On one occasion, however, an employee attempted to raise her voice and clear protesters from a room but was quickly drowned out by singing.
Near the end of the protest, a 12-year-old girl identified as Elasia explained why she was attending. She said:
They will see their kids. They are probably wasting away and worried. They love their kids and they want to know they’ll be okay. I don’t think you guys realize that these are real people. They deserve respect. Whatever happened to “innocent until proven guilty”? That is how the world used to know America. We are the US of A. We have pride in our worldly status. We were a safe haven to those in need. But we are no more. I hope that you’ll be here, take peaceful action and love the least of these.
[image via screengrab/Act.tv]