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Hundreds gather in Tacoma to protest policy separating migrant families

Hundreds gather for Families Belong Together rally

Hundreds held signs, listened to speakers, and sang along with Tacoma's Refugee Choir at the Families Belong Together rally in People's Park on Saturday.
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Hundreds held signs, listened to speakers, and sang along with Tacoma's Refugee Choir at the Families Belong Together rally in People's Park on Saturday.

Couples, friends and families, together, arrived at Tacoma's People's Park with signs, blankets and raincoats on Saturday.

They joined thousands around the nation who protested policies advanced by Trump Administration that have separated children from their parents as they enter the U.S. at the southern border.

A diverse cast of speakers addressed the crowd at the Families Belong Together rally as rain threatened to fall from low-hanging clouds. About 20 Tacoma police officers blocked off nearby roads and kept an eye on the peaceful gathering they said numbered around 400 people.

"Bienvenido a la lucha," said Abigail Vizcarra Perez, a board member for Tacoma Community House. "Welcome to our struggle. … These policies are inhumane and they are abusive."

Since about mid May, the Trump Administration had been separating children from their parents at the southern border, including those who legally seek asylum here. The Department of Homeland Security has said more than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents through mid-June, when Trump approved a change to family detention instead of family separation.

Still, some parents and children remain apart.

U.S Rep. Derek Kilmer said he visited 22 women in the Tacoma-based Northwest Detention Center. One woman told Kilmer she had been separated from her child for two months.

"Some have no idea where their children are," Kilmer said. "I can't get their sobs out of my head. It is wrong to separate a parent from their child. … We are here to tell Donald Trump and Congress to stop using children as leverage."

Colorful, handmade signs carried alongside American flags at the rally also pushed back against the Trump administration: "Stop fascism," "Fight ignorance not immigrants," "There is no Nobel Prize for caging children," and dozens more.

The Tacoma Refugee Choir serenaded the crowd, led at times by Tresor John, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo who has lived in the United States for six years. He completed the asylum process after staying in a refugee camp for a decade.

More than two dozen rallies were scheduled in Washington state alone. They included another at Wright Park earlier in the day Saturday and another in Bonney Lake.

Kate Martin: kmartin@thenewstribune.com, 253-597-8542.
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