Hundreds of Michiganders gathered in the summer heat in front of the State Capitol in Lansing on Saturday afternoon to urge federal authorities to reunite immigrant children separated from their parents upon entering the US southern border. It was one of 24 rallies statewide.
With a heat index near 100 degrees and a bright sun overhead, hundreds of Michiganders often broke into chants as they listened to 30 speakers on the steps of the capitol.
Sitting in a wheelchair towards the back of the crowd, Sharon Wood of Lansing held up a message.
"My sign says cage liars not children on one side and it says neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim," said Wood.
President Donald Trump’s "zero tolerance policy" led to more than 2,000 children separated from their parents as they tried to enter the US. Wood said the images of minors being kept inside metal fences in detention centers upset her.
"I think its appalling," said Wood. "We’re all immigrants unless we’re Native Americans, we’re all immigrants. This is a nation of immigrants. We should be treating the world as potential citizens."
Standing a few feet away under a shady tree, Johanna Johnson of Okemos wears a jacket similar to the one First Lady Melania Trump wore when boarding a jet to see immigrant children on June 21. The First Lady's jacket read 'I really don't care, do you?' The back of Johnson's jacket read 'I really care, do you?'
"I wanted to send a message to humanity that there are people in the United States that care very much about the fate of immigrants and children and we have a civic duty to be out here and making our voices heard," said Johnson.
"It's important to be heard at this time in our country," said Johnson. "I’m 51 years old, I was too young to remember much of Vietnam but this issue for me in my lifetime seems to be a lot at stake. I think our country is losing a lot of its freedoms."
Over on the capitol steps – the protest sounded a little like the 1960’s with singing and fiery speeches from pastors and politicians.
City council member Kathie Dunbar, who tried unsuccessfully to make Lansing a sanctuary city told the crowd she’s angry.
"The Mama Bear in me wants to fight and kick and scream and knowing that those Moms and Dads could not fight and kick and scream their way to stay with their families is so upsetting to me," said Dunbar.
Pastor Dr. Melvin T. Jones of Union Missionary Baptist Church said the Black Lives Matter movement which campaigns against violence and racism against African-Americans support efforts to reunite the mostly Latino families. And he took exception to US Attorney General Jeff Sessions using the Bible to justify the separations.
"Nowhere in scripture are we told to obey the unjust law," said Dr. Jones. "Historically as African-Americans, we have seen this evil before. African-Americans in this country have a legacy that is built on separation and alienation."
Voces de la Comunidad is an organization advocating for the Latinx community. Organizer Marisol Garcia said it touched her to see a diverse crowd so vocal about reuniting families.
"I think it resonates because we’re talking about families who are being torn," said Garcia. "Even though the situation in the headlines speaks to the southern border situation, it's really a universal situation. It’s not just Mexicans or Central Americans, we’re talking about people from other countries."
But not all attendees disagreed with the policy. Walking thru the crowd in a red 'Make America Great Again' hat and holding the Michigan state flag was a man named Chris. He wouldn’t give his last name when he talked to our media partner WLNS-TV.
"I feel like people come into the country and with an expectation that it is the responsibility for American government to take care of them and its really no one's responsibility to take care of anyone," he told WLNS-TV.
Whether or not they agree with President Trump’s immigration policy, many of the people who came to the Capitol on Saturday vowed to remember this day and what’s happening on the southern border... when they vote in November.
RALLIES AROUND THE STATE
Hundreds of people gathered in Detroit and nearly two dozen other Michigan cities to add their voices to nationwide protests over the detention of immigrant families.
Detroit police estimated that more than 250 people marched Saturday through the city's downtown before holding a rally at Hart Plaza in sweltering, 95-degree heat.
The Detroit News reports that Democratic U.S. Rep. Sander Levin told the gathering that the detention of young immigrant children and the Trump administration's other immigration policies "are a danger to American society."
Rallies were also held in 22 other Michigan cities, including Jackson, where protesters gathered across the street from Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg's office.