Tens of thousands rallied for Families Belong Together
Marilyn Bechtel/PW

SAN FRANCISCO – An estimated 20,000 demonstrators gathered at City Hall in San Francisco June 30 for a massive Families Belong Together march and rally, demanding an end to the Trump administration’s harsh policies of family separation and detention and its failure to reunite thousands of families. Many had marched to the rally from Mission Dolores Park.

The action was a family affair, drawing participants from the tiniest babes-in-arms to the very old, from a broad spectrum of racial and ethnic backgrounds.

The San Francisco demonstrators joined marchers from some 700 cities nationwide – over 100 of them in California. In the state’s largest action, some 70,000 people rallied in Los Angeles.

Among San Francisco participants – and prominent on the speakers’ list – were many immigrants and people with immigrant family backgrounds from around the world and from different eras.

Immigrant rights organizations representing various communities joined with labor, political and LGBTQ groups in sponsoring the event. Among sponsors were MoveOn, Council on American-Islamic Relations-San Francisco Bay Area, Chicana Latina Foundation, Carecen, SF Progressive Democrats and San Francisco Progressive Alliance. The San Francisco Labor Council was a sponsor, and labor speakers were well represented on the speakers’ platform, as were area state legislators and local elected officials.

Rally speakers recounted harrowing ordeals experienced by immigrants from Latin America, among them the story of a woman who suffered horrendous abuse in her home village after her husband left for the U.S. in search of work. She chose to flee with her young son, and after encountering border patrol agents, was forcibly separated from the boy. After some 23 days, she still has no idea where her son has been taken.

Marilyn Bechtel/PW

Two women, members of Causa Justa/Just Cause, a San Francisco Bay Area multiracial organization working for justice in low income communities, told of children “going up and down the halls in detention centers, desperately looking for their families. Where are those 2,000 children? What did you do with them? They are in peril right now!”

Parallels between today’s mass detention of immigrants and the concentration and internment camps of the last century were highlighted by several speakers.

Steve Rapport, a volunteer with Indivisible San Francisco, told how his mother, then living in Lodz, Poland, was swept up with her parents in the Nazi Holocaust that took the lives of millions of Jews, other minorities and political opponents. By the end of World War II, he said, his mother had survived the Lodz ghetto and several Nazi concentration camps.

“If it seems like we’ve seen this movie before,” Rapport said, “it’s because many of us who have come from other countries to pursue our American dreams free from fear or violence or prosecution or worse, have seen a version of this movie, and we’ve been warning for many years about where it leads and how it ends. For 73 years, we’ve been saying, ‘Never Again!’”

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi told the crowd that his parents and grandparents were among the 120,000 Japanese-Americans who were interned during World War II. “My mother was 6 years old – she was separated from her parents and sent to Arkansas for four years. We said it would never happen again, and it is!”

Adachi emphasized immigrant detainees’ need for legal representation and urged efforts to make sure each of them has a lawyer.

Elected officials among the speakers included San Francisco’s interim Mayor Mark Farrell, state legislators Scott Weiner, David Chiu and Phil Ting; and San Francisco Supervisors Sandra Fewer and Hillary Ronen.

Labor unions were represented by leaders from Unite Here Local 2, whose members work in the hospitality industry; SEIU Local 87, representing area janitors; the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers and the California Domestic Workers Coalition.

Among the nearly 30 other San Francisco Bay Area cities holding rallies were Oakland, Redwood City, Palo Alto, Santa Rosa, Livermore and San Jose.


CONTRIBUTOR

Marilyn Bechtel
Marilyn Bechtel

Marilyn Bechtel writes for the People’s World from the San Francisco Bay Area. She joined the PW staff in 1986, and currently participates as a volunteer.

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