Photos: 'Families Belong Together' protest blocks Nogales border crossing
Following weeks of outrage over the Trump administration's immigration policies, including the separation of children from their parents, more than 400 people protested in Nogales, Ariz., on Saturday, blocking a major intersection and stopping traffic from crossing the border with Mexico at the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry.
The protest was one of more than 600 rallies held in 50 states, including Phoenix and Tucson.
Beginning at Nasim Karib Park, a small green area with a bright yellow gazebo just blocks from the fence that separates Nogales, Ariz., from Nogales, Sonora, hundreds of people assembled and listened to speeches, including from U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, Revs. Alison Harrington and John Fife, and immigration activist Isabel Garcia.
Grijalva said that he was proud to represent this part of Arizona and called the Nogales area "ground zero" for the Trump administration's aggressive and controversial immigration policies.
Following Grijalva's comments, the crowd marched along Morley Avenue, and then looped in front of the fence near the Morley pedestrian gate in the border fence, before they headed north and walked across the railroad tracks to Grand Avenue, and blocked the major intersection there, stopping traffic from entering Mexico.
As Nogales Police Department officers tried to redirect traffic, protesters then shifted to Grand and Crawford Street, bringing traffic to a halt through the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry, one of two major border crossings in the Nogales area.
After more than a half-hour, the protesters then marched toward the port, eventually occupying the outgoing traffic area as more than a dozen U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers looked on.
No one was arrested by authorities, and except for a brief scuffle at the pedestrian walkway at the port, the rally was peaceful.
Eventually the protesters broke their hold on the port and marched around to the outgoing pedestrian entrance, where they chanted "shame" at CBP officials and said that officers and agents could refuse the orders of the Trump administration or quit their jobs.
Hannah Bonner, a pastor with the United Methodist Church, took the megaphone and described her visit to Tornillo, Texas, where U.S. officials are detaining migrant children in a "tent city."
She described how the place held not only teenaged boys, as administration officials have said, but also girls and "really little kids" and they were often kept out in the heat under awnings as they were processed. She also described how when officials and press came to visit the facility, some kids were sent out into blistering heat to play soccer.
"Let me tell you about the Tornillo heat, it's a different kind of sun than this, it blinds you so bad that you get a headache when you open your eyes, there's a humidity that makes the heat blister on your skin," she said. "It's uncomfortable to be outside there, and you know what they do when the politicians come by? They would take the little kids out, they would send them outside to play soccer, to pretend that they were having fun."
"I was there for 10 days, and I only saw them play soccer when the politicians came by to watch," she said, an effort made to make the place appear less bad.
"They are not criminals, and you know that," she said, pointing her comments at the contingent of CBP officers who guarded the entrance to the port's air-conditioned lobby. "You are part of the system that is inflicting suffering on them," she said.
"Free our people, free our people," some of the protestors chanted.
Jane Storey, 70, a member of the Green Valley Samaritans, said she came to the protest in Nogales because she was upset about the Trump administration's policies. "It's just heartbreaking, we can't treat people like this. They're not criminals, they're not animals, they're looking for a better life. We have to stand up and speak out about this."