Marchers go from East Side to City Hall condemning separation of children


Marjorie Otto/Review • A group of about 100 community members gathered at Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center in Dayton’s Bluff and marched to St. Paul City Hall June 20 to protest the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from families after being detained at the U.S. southern border.

Marjorie Otto photos/Review • The marchers chanted “Let the children go,” as they marched through downtown St. Paul to City Hall.

Marjorie Otto photos/Review • Marchers watched as St. Paul City Council member Jane Prince, who represents Ward 7 on the East Side, read a resolution drafted by the council condemning the national policy of separating children and families at the U.S. southern border.

St. Paul City Council passes resolution against administration policy

 

Chanting “Keep families together” and “Let the children go,” a group of some 100 marchers trekked from the East Side to downtown St. Paul to protest the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents during detention at the U.S. southern border. 

The June 20 march ended at City Hall where the St. Paul City Council read and voted on a resolution “condemning [the] separation of immigrant and refugee families and calling for the immediate end of the Trump administration’s Zero-Tolerance Policy.”

The march coincided with World Refugee Day and President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Duluth.

 

Not forgotten 

The march began at the Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center in Dayton’s Bluff and followed East Seventh Street into downtown St. Paul, led by the East Side Azteca danza group Kalpulli Yaocenoxtli.

Many of the families marching included those of indigenous or South American descent, with some adding that they could very easily see themselves in the same situation as families seperated at the border, had they been in a different time and place. 

One marcher, Chester Spears, who marched with his young family, said both he and his wife have family in Mexico and that now that he is a father, this is an issue that is a little too close for comfort.

“The children are going to remember this,” Spears said.  

He said he believes the separation of children from parents is going to create historic trauma. He said his wife went through a similar situation and she still deals with trauma from it. 

Spears said he not only hopes that the children will be released and reunited with their families, but that policies and legislation will be made to prevent something like this from happening again.  

During a blessing of the group before the march, Sharon Day, executive director of the Indigenous Peoples Task Force, reminded marchers that indigenous children also had been taken away from their families fewer than 100 years ago. 

From the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, the U.S. had a policy of separating indigenous families in an attempt to destroy indigenous culture and “assimilate” indigenous children into Euro-American culture. 

“This is nothing new,” Day said, “but it’s time to say no more.”

 

Not in line with St. Paul values

When marchers arrived at City Hall, St. Paul City Council President Amy Brendmoen greeted them and said the city council meeting was put into recess so marchers could be present for the reading of the resolution. 

By the time the city council meeting had begun, Trump had signed an executive order ending the separation of children from their parents. However, it was unclear if already-separated families would be reunited or how quickly the order would go into effect. 

St. Paul City Council members said that while the order had been signed, it still isn’t stopping the detention of families at the border, a policy they don’t support.

“These policies impact all of us. Injustice to any immigrant is an injustice to all immigrants,” said Jane Prince, who represents part of the East Side in Ward 7. “None of us believe that the imprisonment of families is an option.”

After Prince read the resolution, council members added their thoughts.

Dai Thao, Ward 1, said that during his experience of war in Laos, many families were separated. But he emphasized that was war.

“We are acting in a way that dehumanizes people,” Thao said, adding it’s not an American value and that citizens need to stay vigilant.

Ward 3 council member Chris Tolbert said it seems like the council has to keep reiterating that it supports immigrant, refugee and indigenous people to counter national rhetoric. 

He said as a country “I didn’t think we would reach this low level,” adding that what is happening is “un-St. Paul, un-Minnesotan and un-American.”

Rebecca Noecker, Ward 2, echoed similar sentiments, adding that she is glad that St. Paul has such energized, caring, loud and mobilized citizens. 

“This council will stand with you,” she said. 

 

Be heard

After the meeting, Mayor Melvin Carter greeted marchers, telling them he was glad to see people coming and making their voices heard. He said he was especially moved by seeing all the kids and young adults participating. 

“It makes me excited,” he said. “If you don’t speak up your voice will never be heard.” 

Sergio Quiroz, one of the leaders of Kalpulli Yaocenoxtli and co-founder of the Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center, said he was pleased with how the protest went. 

“I think the march was excellent,” he said. “I think the community showed up to show their support for this resolution and they showed up in disgust of what is happening to the children at the border.”

Quiroz added he was glad the city council took on the resolution, adding the city needs to make more policies friendly to immigrant communities and communities of color.

“The city needs to be the forefront and be an example to the rest of Minnesota and, why not, to the rest of the nation,” Quiroz said. “We cannot let St. Paul go backwards, we cannot let Minnesota go backwards, we need to continue progressing.”

Quiroz also said it was timely that the council voted on the resolution while Trump was in the state. 

“I think it was perfect that this resolution passed today in the capitol of Minnesota while President Trump is here,” he said, adding that it sends a message to the president that “his policies and the way that he is governing is not welcome in Minnesota.”

 

– Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto

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