Hundreds of demonstrators on Monday morning took to the streets of the Mission District and demanded an end to the federal government’s harsh treatment of immigrants and asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border, including holding them in detention camps.
With signs and large banners that read, “END THE CAMPS,” the demonstrators demanded that lawmakers end the Trump administration’s child separation policies, close down the immigration detention camps along the southern border and end raids targeting immigrant communities.
“Si se puede!” the marchers chanted, beginning the March at the 24th Street BART Plaza, marching down Mission Street and eventually ending up at City Hall.
The rally was organized by a coalition of organizations and activist groups, such as CARECEN, which advocates for Central American refugees, and the San Francisco Latino Democratic Club, whose president is a DACA recipient. A.J. Napolis, who was one of the organizers of Monday’s march, said that the group began planning the rally four months ago.
“We’re seeing families packed in squalid conditions and children denied basic human rights like bathing,” Napolis said. “Now it’s a business, and these companies are making money. That’s what we want to talk about.”
As marchers assembled at 24th and Mission at 11 a.m., Aztec dancers began the “day of action” with a cleansing dance. Dozens of students from Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8 and Cesar Chavez Elementary joined the rally and waved banners.
“The president is stripping these kids of their rights, their constitutional rights, to request asylum and stay in this country. Not just kids too, also adults,” said Francisco Aguirre, a member of the National Day Labor Organizing Network, who carried a banner that read “Solidarity, Justice, and Respect.”
Aguirre marched with members of the Day Labor Center and La Colectiva, a Mission-based nonprofit group of mostly immigrant workers seeking better working conditions and wages. Aguirre said he also is being affected by Trump’s immigration policies: He fears deportation and is fighting the federal government to remain in the U.S., he said. He said he is originally from El Salvador and left 20 years ago after his parents were killed.
The march continued on Mission Street until it veered into Van Ness Ave. Finally arriving at the steps of City Hall at around 1:30 p.m., speakers took turns at a podium and gave speeches that showed the city’s commitment to making immigrants feel welcome.
Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who represents the Mission, announced at Tuesday’s meeting that the Board of Supervisors will take up a resolution to affirm the demonstrators’ demands to close the camps and end Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids.
“We want you to know you are not alone, we are here with you and we are a strong sanctuary city. We are not backing off an inch,” Ronen said.
California Assemblyman David Chiu said that in a recent trip with the Asian and Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus to an immigration detention center in the California border with Mexico, he and his caucus were appalled at the conditions. He witnessed children as young as two years old separated from their parents, he told the crowd.
“Every human being has rights in our country and we’re going to continue to fight until this repressive office of Donald Trump is out of office in 2020 and stand together as human beings,” Chiu said.
Then, Mayor London Breed took the stage and stated her commitment to immigrant communities, saying that in this city children are put into classes, not cages. She said she remains committed to the city’s sanctuary policies.
“We are stronger because we stand as a proud sanctuary city together,” Breed said. “We will not let anyone divide us, now more than ever. We have to support each other.”
The day of action culminates with another rally at 24th Street BART Plaza at 6 p.m.