WORCESTER – Despite sweltering heat, there was a big turnout here Saturday to rally against immigrant families being separated at the U.S. border and President Trump's travel ban.
And with the crowd came plenty of chants, expressive protest signs and other stinging sentiments directed at immigration practices of the current administration.
Chris Robarge, Central Mass. field coordinator for the ACLU of Massachusetts, set the stage for the peaceful protest that lasted roughly 90 minutes.
“Today is a time for us to come together, all of us, and say, 'enough. No more.' We will not tolerate an unjust and inhumane system. We will not tolerate the separation of families, whether it’s tearing children from their parents and locking them in cages, or enacting a xenophobic travel ban, or whatever form it takes. We will resist you in the courts, in the legislatures and in the streets," Mr. Robarge said. "We are not tired. We are not going away. And we will win.”
Two Worcester-based immigration lawyers - Randy Feldman and Alex M. Mooradian - led the crowd in several chants and advocated voting out “the closed-minded” and voting in “the open minded” at the next election.
“Where is our humanity? Where is our caring? We know where it’s not, on the back of first lady’s outerwear,” Mr. Feldman said. “Where is the decency, the humility, the sense of reasonable compromise, which is the only way this nation can work? All we see is the use of force, being tough, always needing to win and then to vanquish one’s opponent.”
“The new laws of this administration harm the most vulnerable in our community. These laws are unconstitutional, unconscionable, unacceptable. They’re immoral,” Mr. Mooradian said. “And the beginning of the end of these horrible policies is today.”
The Rev. Judy Hanlon, pastor of Hadwen Park Congregational Church and co-founder of the LGBTQ Asylum Task Force, didn’t mince words. She said, “Today, Jesus is (expletive) off!”
“This morning I want to talk as a white, straight, Christian pastor,” Rev. Hanlon said. “I don’t like to say I’m a Christian anymore. What I try to say is that I’m a Jesus follower. It makes evangelicals wonder what I am.”
Rev. Hanlon also chastised the current administration for quoting Scripture as a means to justify their practices, while leading an informal crusade to action.
“I want to ask them, these white, straight Christian leaders. If they are following Rabbi Jesus …why didn’t they quote this Scripture: ‘Jesus said to Peter, let the children come onto me, do not forget them, because this is the Kingdom of God,” Rev. Hanlon said.
U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern of Worcester said it’s wonderful to be out of Washington, D.C., where there is so much hate, and to be here in Worcester where there is so much love.
“What is happening at our border is unconscionable. Little children being ripped away from their parents is something that I never thought would happen in the United States of America. It’s tantamount with child abuse. It is unlawful. It is against our laws. It is against international laws and it has to stop now,” Mr. McGovern said.
Last week, Mr. McGovern became the first incumbent member of Congress to call for abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. On Saturday he said we should celebrate the immigrant community in our country not put up walls and barriers in place to stop them.
“ICE is no longer about going after criminals or drug dealers or terrorists,” Mr. McGovern said. “It’s about tearing up our families. And that goes against our values - that betrays who we are and we need to stay up with that.”
Representing the city’s Muslim community were Amjad Bhatti, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Worcester; Dr. Muhammad Ramzan, president of the Worcester Islamic Center; Tahir Ali, media and public relations director for the Worcester Islamic Center (who led the crowd in singing the “Star Spangled Banner”); and Imam Asif Hirani, new spiritual leader at the Worcester Islamic Center.
“This is a nation of immigrants. This is a land of immigrants,” Mr. Ramzan said. “What a shameful day that we have to process those policies of hate, fear and terror. It’s very unjust … This is not how we make our nation safe and secure.”
Also speaking at the rally were State Sen. James B. Eldridge, lead sponsor of the Safe Community Act; John Wambere, who was granted asylum in the U.S. from Uganda; local immigration activist Jenny Rodriguez; the Rev. Andres Araque, associate pastor at St. Stephen and St. Peter parishes; and Javier Luengo-Garrido, ACLU’s immigrant protection project coordinator.