A dozen students from Lowell High School joined a nationwide action to protest child separations and family detentions at the southern border by participating in a banner drop at the Women’s Building on the corner of 18th and Lapidge streets.
The high school students hung their banner late Wednesday afternoon, which read, “Families Belong Together and Free” across a canvas sheet.
The action is part of Amnesty International’s Children’s Day Action, a national movement to bring awareness but also protest Trump’s immigration policies. The day was chosen because the United Nations recognized Nov. 20 as World Children’s Day and the students are all members of a high school chapter of Amnesty International.
Olivia Onek, 17, is the club’s vice president and said that they formed the club two years ago and wanted to do their part to oppose the family separations. Onek said they had been working on the banner since the weekend of Nov. 9 and spent the past weekend finishing it up.
“Amnesty is definitely engaged in the butterfly effect and passionate about how small actions can perpetuate greater awareness about issues as well as how public action can pressure policy makers,” she said.
The action is an organized effort to combat the Trump administration’s family separation policies, but also to increase awareness and advocacy. Gavrilah Wells, a coordinator for the local chapter of Amnesty International, said that the group was concerned about the detention centers like the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children in Florida.
Wells said the group initially wanted to hang the banner off a freeway overpass, but changed course when members found out it was illegal to do so. They contacted the Women’s Building staff early Wednesday morning and were granted permission.
The club’s president, 17-year-old Casey Rawlings, said she and Onek started their student group at Lowell High in Fall 2017 because there was a lack of nonpartisan activist clubs on campus. Now in their final year of high school, the two hope to be able to pass the torch to younger students.
“Kids in general are getting more involved, especially after the March for Our Lives,” Rawlings said.
Several staff at the Women’s Building only learned of the students’ intent today, but were into the idea from the right away.
Vylma Ortiz, an advocacy specialist at the Women’s Building, said management here hardly ever allows banners in front of the building. But one of their core goals is to empower women women and to advocate for women and children, so they made an exception.
“Any woman who has a child knows that it’s almost like death to have your child taken from you. It’s the most painful thing to imagine,” Ortiz said.