Hundreds Join 'Keep Families Together' Protest In Downtown Miami

Jul 1, 2018

Hundreds of protesters gathered in downtown Miami on Saturday as part of a protest against the Trump Administration's immigration policies, joining hundreds of other cities across the nation.

The crowd gathered at the Miami-Dade College Wolfson Campus and marched to the Freedom Tower, a symbolic site that thousands of Cuban refugees passed through on their way to obtaining permanent residency status, and later citizenship.

"This is not the America that we know," says Miguel Sarmiento, a protester who arrived to Miami from Colombia in the 1970s, fleeing civil war. "We've been here for 43 years and we've never seen this kind of anger against children, against immigrants, against human rights, against poor people. This is not America."

Read more: South Florida Protesters Voice Outrage Over Child Separation Policies At Homestead Detention Center

Dubbed "Keep Families Together," the rally was called in response to the "zero tolerance" policy on illegal border crossings announced last month by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The policy has led to more than 2,000 children being separated from their parents as the adults await misdemeanor criminal charges, over 100 of whom have been sent to children detention centers in South Florida. Last week, President Trump issued an Executive Order directing a change to the policy, which aims to effectively keep families together by detaining them as a unit rather than separate.

Read more: Activists In Pompano Beach Protest Federal Immigration Policies 

"We’re here most importantly to call on those folks who are able to vote, and on those legal permanent residents to become citizens and vote so that we can create changes in the upcoming elections," said Melissa Taveras, spokesperson for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, which helped organize the rally.

Protest chants ranged from "Say it loud, say it clear/ refugees are welcome here" to "With liberation down down/ with deportation up up." Many carried "Abolish ICE" signs, referencing Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which handles deportations and detentions of undocumented immigrants.

"ICE hasn't served us, it hasn't served our communities, it's been destructive for immigrant communities," said Taveras, whose group supports the Abolish ICE movement.

Protestors against the Trump administration's immigration policies marched in downtown Miami on Saturday, June 30, 2018.
Credit Daniel Rivero / WLRN News

Thirty protests were held in other Florida cities, from Key Largo and Boca Raton to Lakeland and Jacksonville, according to organizers at MoveOn.org.

A tiny amount of counter-protesters were present, holding signs saying "I SUPPORT PRESIDENT TRUMP," "It’s Called Rule of Law" and "You Should Go to Your Own Countries and Protest Their Corrupt Governments." One car with a large TRUMP 2020 sticker and a "Hillary For Prison" t-shirt hanging out the window circled the block for over an hour.

"When Cuban families arrived here, they weren't separated. They stayed together, they went through a process, but it was always together. So when I saw them being separated I just thought it was horrible," says George Gonzalez, a Cuban-American protestor. "A lot of Cubans came here on rafts and many didn't make it and many perished, and they were willing to do that because they knew that if they got here, they could stay here."

"I just feel that we should show support to our Latin American brothers," he says.

Some president Trump supporters also showed up to defend the administration's immigration policies.
Credit Daniel Rivero / WLRN News