Well over a hundred people rallied in front of Elting Memorial Library in New Paltz yesterday as part of a nationwide set of protests against the separation of immigrant families at the border. The chanting, cheering, placard-waving crowd spilled over to two other corners of that intersection, with groups also in front of Chase Bank and on the corner by P&G’s.
Other local rallies and marches took place in Kingston, Woodstock, Rhinebeck and Beacon.
While the broader effort to organize marches and rallies was bolstered by a loose coalition of progressive groups, New Paltz has a solid core of protesters in the Women in Black for Peace and Justice, who have stood vigil every Saturday on this corner since November 2001. According to Barbara Upton, one of the group’s leaders, this is the third week running that they’ve focused on family separation. The national activity, in addition to local organizing, made this a larger-than-usual action for the group.
As drivers honked in support as they passed by, protesters whooped and cheered in response. Between those moments, activists passionate about the subject belted out chant after chant in the 90-degree heat, keeping participants engaged and involved. While many lined the sidewalks, a number bore witness from the shade of trees a few feet away, making their position clear by their presence.
Upton said that this action was built on three demands: ending family separation, family detention, and the zero-tolerance policy regarding illegal immigration, which she called the “zero humanity policy” instead. “Little children are ripped from their parents and put in cages,” said Upton “Two-thirds of Americans want an end to it. [President] Trump says he’s going to replace it with family detention, but that’s no solution.” They’re opposed to zero-tolerance as well, because refugees have the right to seek asylum and deserve due process.
Instead, Upton said, the president is “criminalizing parents and deporting them without their kids.”
She was particularly gratified by the high turnout because among those in attendance were a group of so-called “dreamers,” children brought illegally to this country who are now seeking the right to stay since it’s the only home they’ve ever known. “They lit up” at the support, she said, perhaps a rare moment for young people whose lives are in legal limbo.
Gabriella Quinanila is director of Adelante Student Voices, and as such works with undocumented high school students living in rural and small towns around the state. She and the students “came here to heal ourselves,” she said, and “express the anger” over current immigration policy which casts their future in such doubt. “I’m feeling glad we were a part of this,” she said.
An activist who only identified herself as Tashawna wasn’t as thrilled as Upton by the turnout, saying, “I wish more of the people who honk as they drive by would stop and join us.” Between picking up the bullhorn to lead chants such as “love not hate makes America great” and “vote them out,” she said she is from an immigrant family and hopes others will stand up and fight against people “being treated like animals.” The goal, she said, is to change hearts and minds. She concluded, “It’s called a revolution.”