More than 300 people gathered at Embarcadero Plaza on Saturday, June 23 to protest the Trump Administration’s inhumane “Zero Tolerance” child separation policy at the U.S.-Mexico border. The “Families Belong Together Rally” was just one of hundreds of associated events held across the country protesting the separation of children from their parents, and their indefinite imprisonment in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers (read: concentration camps).
Supporters began streaming into the plaza at 9:30 a.m. carrying banners demanding the end of child separations, the abolition of ICE, and denouncing the Trump administration’s fascist policies. Contingents from local labor unions and activist groups were woven throughout the crowd including Service Employees International Union Local 1021, organizers from the Women’s March, Refuse Fascism, and a large swath of red banners held by members of the San Francisco Democratic Socialists of America chapter. The crowd was a relatively diverse group with a huge cluster of immigrants from all over the world.
The rally kicked off at 10 a.m. with a traditional indigenous blessing and dance by local Aztec dance group Mixcoatl Anahuac, followed by a long list of speakers including local and state politicians, faith leaders, and local immigration attorneys. Mayor-elect London Breed was first to the mic and roundly decried the grotesque policy of separating children from their parents. She affirmed her commitment as the newly elected mayor of San Francisco to resist the Trump administration’s immigration policies, and to uphold San Francisco’s commitments as a sanctuary city. A veritable who’s who of current and former San Francisco politicians followed her including State Senator Scott Wiener, Assemblymember David Chiu, City Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu, and current Supervisors Malia Cohen, Hillary Ronen and Norman Yee. Former City Supervisor David Campos gave a heartfelt speech about his own immigrant story, having come to California as an undocumented teen, but also scolded the Newsom administration for the city’s ill treatment of immigrants during his tenure as mayor. Similarly, Supervisor Ronen recalled her own family’s history escaping Nazi Germany; rightly comparing ICE’s immigration detention centers to concentration camps.
The tone of the crowd grew more and more serious however, as the event progressed and the political heavyweights left for Pride festivities elsewhere in the city. The speeches started to become more radical, and began to voice more concrete policy demands from officials. That is when a representative from the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) walked to center stage and launched into an impassioned speech calling for the immediate release and permanent legal residency for immigrants and asylum seekers. Her words elicited thunderous applause from the crowd. Organizers then introduced several of San Francisco’s immigration attorneys from La Raza Community Resource Center and other organizations. This drew the biggest cheer of the afternoon from the crowd, which grew into several minutes of chanting and clapping in celebration of their tireless work.
Many of the speakers also spoke about the harm Obama-era immigration policies have had on the immigrant community, and the need for liberals to be more forcefully pro-immigrant than they have been in the past. They stressed the point that if the label “sanctuary city” is going to be anything more than a hollow slogan, it needs to be backed up by concrete policy decisions by elected officials.
Things began to wind down around noon as people started to trail off towards other events happening around the city. Overall, the turnout was much higher than could have been expected for an event happening during Pride weekend in San Francisco. The issue of discrimination is obviously a common struggle amongst marginalized people in SF, and it was fantastic to see such cross-pollination and solidarity among our community. This is only the first of many future events to resist the racist immigration policies of the Trump administration.
For those looking for more information about immigration services, La Raza Community Center has drop-in consultation hours Tuesdays, from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m., at 474 Valencia St. in the Mission.