Pictured above: Protesters and counter-protesters cross the street to Senator Flake’s office after spending time in front of Senator McCain’s office.
The invitation came to my email on Monday. The subject line read, “Press Conference Re: Separating Children from their Families.” In the email were details to meet in front of Senator McCain’s office on Wednesday, June 20 at 10 am if you wanted to show support against the recent policy of separating children from their families. There was also additional information of a location to meet if you wanted to make posters ahead of time. The message encouraged people to bring their children along with a teddy bear or other stuffed animal to be given to the children currently in detention.
I have been deeply saddened by the recent events of young children being separated from their mothers and fathers at our border. Just imagining a group of young children, crying inconsolably, with no understanding of what is happening – breaks my heart. I felt that attending this event might make me feel like I had done something. That I had not just sat idly by.
I arrived at the event and saw moms pushing kids in strollers, little girls riding on their dad’s shoulders and people holding signs that read “Keep families together” and “Moms against family separation.”
As I was standing on the perimeter of the crowd, I ran into Ari and Shoshana Simones. You may recognize the name – Ari and Shoshana were the couple who came home from vacation last July 4 to a swastika and the word “Jew” painted on their mailbox.
I asked them why they felt the need to be there this morning. As Shoshana held her 10-day-old daughter in a carrier against her chest, she explains, “As a new mom – we now have two daughters – it was really important for us to be able to look our daughters in the eyes 20 years from now, when they ask about this time. We need to say we were doing something about this and not sitting back.”
She continued, “As a mother, I can’t imagine being apart from my children for even an hour, so coming to a place where you are seeking refuge and having your children ripped away, and no clear idea of how or when you would see them again – it’s devastating.”
It was hard to carry on a conversation as we were standing not far from a group of counter-protestors who were wearing shirts that read “Patriot Movement” and yelling into microphones, “Stop sneaking your kids into our country,” “Go home” and “Build that wall.”
“I don’t understand how there could possibly be two sides to this issue when you are talking about children being ripped from their parents,” says Shoshana.
We were talking about how angry the counter-protesters seemed. The only response that they were getting back from the protesters was, “Keep families together.”
“The loudest people are going to get heard and to get loud you have to get angry sometimes,” says Ari.
We also talked about how being there and seeing the children gave us hope. That there are good people who are standing up for what’s right, and in turn, teaching the next generation what’s right.
Shoshana said that she had seen little girls with shirts that read “History Maker” and “Feminist” and she also shared something that she overheard. “I heard a mother pointing out the counter-protesters to her children and saying, ‘See those people who are so full of hate, I want you to take a look at them and never be like that.’ ”
“A lot of us can be in the moment and say this is messed up, but there are also a lot of people who are not going to realize it until it’s too late,” says Ari.
Shortly after I arrived home, I received an alert on my phone that President Trump had signed an executive order reversing his administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border and allowing families to instead be detained together.
At last, a step in the right direction.