Families must be kept together.
That was the message protesters and speakers were amplifying Saturday during the Families Belong Together rally at Wilson Park. Attendees carried signs with an array of sayings, including “Love has no border,” “We are better than this” and “America was made by immigrants.”
The Trump administration’s immigration policies spurred rallies across the country. In Wisconsin, the protests occurred in more than two dozen cities, including Eau Claire and Menomonie.
In Eau Claire, the rally began with a moment of silence, preceded by interfaith prayer led by the Rev. Julianne Lepp of Unitarian Universalist Congregation.
Selika Ducksworth-Lawton, a representative of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, spoke about the court order from a federal judge in California that said President Donald Trump must reunite families and stop separating them.
Ducksworth-Lawton ended her speech with a call to action, stating that the attendees should call their representatives to tell them how they feel about the separating of families going on at the border.
“These representatives work for us,” she said.
NextGen Wisconsin had a table at the event where protesters could send letters to their representatives about their feelings about the immigration policies.
An organizer for Next-Gen Wisconsin, Victoria Duarte, described the separation of children from their mothers at the border as “disgusting.”
“This event is people coming in solidarity, people coming to demonstrate their anger and their frustration with the current administration and their harmful and destructive policies,” Duarte said.
She also spoke later during the rally, providing recognition to those who are unable to attend rallies such as this out of fear.
“We need to be their voice,” Duarte said. “We need to work until we see those in power who represent all of us, not just a few.”
This rally created a sense of community, said Andrew Werthmann, acting president of the Eau Claire City Council, another speaker at the end.
“It makes me proud to see you all come out to show we’re going to be a welcoming community here in Eau Claire, Wisconsin,” Werthmann said.
During all the speaker’s speeches, the crowd would interject with cheers, applause and an occasional “Here, here!” or “Amen.” Some would raise their signs to show support of the speakers, and others would nod in agreement.
Two protesters, Pat and Larry Griffin, attended the rally because they believe families need to be together.
“We just wanted to be counted among those who think that,” said Larry Griffin, holding a sign that read “Children need mommy and daddy.”
Pat Griffin agreed, stating she thinks immigrants deserve a place in the United States.
“(Trump’s immigration policy) makes me angry,” she said. “He’s not treating people with respect. He’s not looking for a solution.”
Jessie Crockett organized the event on Facebook, and Joe Luginbill, president of the Eau Claire school board, assisted in getting speakers for the event.
Luginbill was one of the speakers at the rally. He voiced his support to abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, and spoke about his distaste for the events occurring at the border.
“This is our shame as a country,” he said.
About 500 to 600 people attended the rally Saturday.
“That speaks to the power of what we can do collectively,” Luginbill said about the number of attendees.