People in several cities around Connecticut joined a day of action Saturday to protest the federal government’s continued separation of migrant families.
In New London, 2nd District Representative Joe Courtney gave an emotional speech to a crowd in Williams Park, describing his recent visit to Texas to see conditions in detention centers for himself.
He told of a meeting with a group of mothers who he said were being held in a facility that seemed to him like a prison. He said nine of the women had no idea where their children were - one had not seen or heard from her child since she was detained in mid-April.
He described the group as extremely nervous and extremely polite, but he said after they answered some questions from the delegation, “they burst into tears uncontrollably — and so did we.”
The images of children in those border detainment facilities were a strong motivator for many in the New London crowd. Reverend Josué Rosado is the pastor of Oasis De Restauración, the oldest Latino church in the city. He said the last few weeks have been galvanizing for his congregation.
"The videos and the pictures that are coming out of there, there’s no way to explain,” he said. “That’s not human, you know, we don’t treat our people – not even like animals, because we don’t do that even to animals. That’s abusive, it’s just a crazy moment that’s happening here in the United States."
He said he hoped gatherings like that on Saturday would add to pressure on the Trump administration to expedite the reunification of migrant families.
"We understood that coming here today to raise our voice and to support this movement of unity, it was one of the ways to help to lift our voice to be heard in the government," said Rosado.
Hilary Jacobs Hendel is a psychotherapist. She attended the march because she said, for the several thousand children who are still being kept apart from their parents, the current situation is an emergency.
“What happens when you separate children from their families, they are thrown into a state of terror,” said Hendel. “Then the child develops for a lifetime, traumatic stress - anxiety, depression, suicidality. When you rip a child away from their family, it says - we don’t care about you.”
In West Hartford a crowd gathered at the Connecticut Veteran’s Memorial for the Families Belong Together rally. The rally was organized by Kristen Manning and Nicole Osier, who describe themselves as concerned citizens.
Manning explained their goal. “We are gathering with our community with people who feel outraged about what is happening right now in the current happenings at the border,” said Manning. “What we're doing is we're standing together and making sure that people in this town don't forget what's currently happening.”
Protesters stood on all corners of a busy intersection, holding signs and chanting to cars and people passing by.
West Hartford Town Councilor Ben Wenograd saw the protest as a good way to channel grassroots activism on the issue.
“I think we all need to stand up and just encourage democracy at the local level but also encourage people to speak out at every level,” he said.
The Families Belong Together movement had a strong national presence, with over 700 events organized across the country.