A rally protesting the Trump administration’s policies on migrants seeking asylum drew hundreds of people in Greenfield on July 12.
The “Abolish ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and CBP [Customs and Border Protection] National Day of Action” protest, organized by the Pioneer Valley Workers Center and Massachusetts Jobs With Justice, was one of two Greenfield events that drew activists from around the region on July 12. A “Lights for Liberty” vigil held on the Greenfield Town Common in the evening had a smaller turnout of roughly one hundred and was one of about seven hundred associated vigils held nationwide. Elsewhere in The Valley, there were evening vigils in Shutesbury and Amherst. The Shutesbury event drew about 75 people according to organizers. Numbers for the Amherst event were not available.
The Pioneer Valley Workers Center’s message was as follows:
“Along the border and in communities of color here in Massachusetts immigrants and people of color are being targeted by ICE and the police and separated from their children and loved ones.
“Our government is packing immigrant families and children into detention centers without due process or basic care, further building our systems of mass incarceration. State-sanctioned policies and practices that serve only to oppress people of color are a long standing tactic used to colonize and control.
“We have to stand up and say no. We need to be loud and clear. Join immigrant workers and people of color to say NO to detention, NO to deportation, NO to banning people from our country, NO to separating families at the border,
“NO to incarceration, NO to police brutality, here in Massachusetts and to send a resounding cry across the valley that we want to #CloseTheCamps!”
At the Greenfield events, protestors, who clapped, chanted, and sang, ranged from young families with small children to the elderly. Many carried signs condemning ICE for its actions and warning of the dangers of growing intolerance.
On the grass outside the jail, speakers included Lois Ahrens, founder of the Real Cost of Prisons Project in Northampton, who said that jails are profiting daily from contracts to hold people who are arrested on unnecessary immigration-related charges.
Amid calls of “Never Again,” members of four area synagogues, led by Rabbi David Seidenberg, an author and founder of Neohasid.org, blew rams’ horns (shofars) to warn against the dangers of detention, deportation and demonization of ethnic groups.
Ali-Wicks Lim of Montague, who recently returned from a detention center for migrant children in Homestead, Florida, said that the facility there is holding three thousand children, supposedly thirteen to seventeen years old, although some appeared to be much younger. She said some children have been at facility for nine months.
“We [protestors] wave giant cardboard hearts and shout comforting words in Spanish,” Wicks-Lim said. “Some of them will pick up traffic cones and use them as megaphones to shout back. Some…make outlines of hearts in the air or sign ‘I love you’ with their hands. Other kids do nothing at all. They are afraid to look in our direction.” Wicks-Lim said that she saw children “moved from place to place like prisoners” and that on their eighteenth birthdays, youths are shackled and brought to adult prisons.
A video of Wicks-Lim’s full speech is here.
At the rally outside the jail, organizers handed out postcards for attendees to fill out, calling for passage of the Work and Family Mobility Act, described here, which would remove immigration status from the criteria for obtaining a driver’s license in Massachusetts.