Cries of “up, up with education; down, down with deportation!” rang throughout downtown Harrisonburg on Saturday. Over 100 people gathered for the Ni Una Mas/Not One More march and rally to demonstrate their opposition to current immigration policy and deportations. Virginia-based organizers and local youth gave speeches, prayers, and a “know your rights” educational skit. The speakers told stories of undocumented immigrants and their families, and urged for local resistance to deportations. Every word was spoken in both English and Spanish.
After the rally, the crowd assembled behind four children carrying a banner bearing an orange and black butterfly, the slogan “Ni Una Mas,” and the names of community members that have been affected by deportation. They circled Court Square, then walked to the county jail and demonstrated. There, organizers Hermelinda Cortes and Isabel Castillo continued leading chants and denounced building such jails for the sole purpose of filling them. Marchers waved homemade signs with “ya, basta!” (enough already!) and “No mas separacion!” (no more separation!) among other phrases.
Junior Giulio Garner said, “as a Hispanic living in this community I’m aware of all the turmoil that my people have to overcome every day. Going to the rally was just the least I could do to support those 11 million who struggle every day to stay in this country trying to better their families’ lives.”
“The rally pulled together a wide diversity of folks–young, old, white, Latino, African-American, rich, poor, college students, factory workers,” said Language and Literature professor Carol Snell-Feikema. “Any time you break down barriers like that, you are doing God’s work and helping build the kingdom.”
Chants focused on the two million people that have been deported under the Obama administration, such as “Obama! Escucha! Estamos de la lucha!” (Obama! Listen! We are the struggle!) Snell-Feikema said, “Some- times it seems our legislators, and even our president, don’t listen to our concerns. They don’t seem to see the suffering that their laws and legislative decisions cause on the ground floor, with common everyday people. So I believe it’s our job to bring the human face of immigration to them, to try to help them to see.”
Snell-Feikema is part of an initiative with Sojourners magazine to personally deliver a petition to Capitol Hill, and encourages anyone interested to add their name. You can do so by searching for Sojourners’ “2 Million is Too Many!” petition.
Garner also hopes to see more involvement from campus. “We, as EMU students, have to get out of our safe campus and get our hands dirty. Change is not going to occur if we play it safe all the time. There are around 900 undergrad students on campus. Just imagine that rally with half of them, even a quarter! There’s when you [will] start noticing a change.”
-Randi B. Hagi, Co-Editor In Chief
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