NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — They wore white. They shook their fists in the air. They carried signs reading: “No more children in cages,” and “What’s next? Concentration Camps?”
In major cities and tiny towns, marchers gathered across America, moved by accounts of children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, in the latest act of mass resistance against President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
In the president’s hometown of New York City, thousands of marchers gathered at Foley Square before crossing the Brooklyn Bridge and rallying at Cadman Plaza in sweltering 90-degree heat.
“It’s important for this administration to know that these policies that rip apart families — that treat people as less than human, like they’re vermin— are not the way of God, they are not the law of love,” said the Rev. Julie Hoplamazian, an Episcopal priest marching in Brooklyn, whose own grandparents fled to the U.S. during the Armenian genocide.
“Jesus was a refugee,” she said.
Millicent Bennet carried her 5-year-old son, Grover, on her shoulders.
“Do everything we can to make sure the country is upholding the values we all believe in,” she told CBS2’s Dave Carlin.
Grover was one of many kids in the crowd, like 4-year-old Cliff, who kept cool thanks to the water his parents, Andrew and Jess Garrison, sprayed on him.
“It’s a small sacrifice to make a good statement,” his mother said.
Padma Lakshmi, the immigrant host of TV’s “Top Chef,” told protesters that the immigration fight was shaping up to be a defining moment for the country.
“Do we want to be a nation of humanity and compassion, or do we want to be a nation that is unfeeling or unjust?” said Lakshmi, who emigrated to the U.S. from India as a child. “This is not the future I want for my children, those children, or anyone’s children. That is why we’re here.”
“We need to stand together, and I’m so proud of every single one of us,” added comedian Amy Schumer.
Some drivers honked in support, while others were frustrated by the delays on the Brooklyn Bridge.
“They closed the whole Brooklyn Bridge down. I’m on about a half hour already,” one person said.
Similar demonstrations took place in the city and across the nation.
“I’m hoping that decent human beings come together, and enough is enough, we’re taking out country back over, that evil is not going to prevail,” said Patricia Carlan, a grandmother of nine from Danville, Indiana, among hundreds who gathered at her state’s capital.
More than 700 planned marches drew hundreds of thousands of people across the country, from immigrant-friendly cities like New York Los Angeles to conservative Appalachia and Indiana to the front lawn of a Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas, near a detention center where migrant children were being held in cages.
There, people held American and Texas flags and signs depicting a migrant father, mother and child as the Holy Family with haloed heads traveling through the desert.
In Washington, a massive crowd gathered in Lafayette Park across from the White House in what was expected to be the largest of the day’s protests.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of the musical “Hamilton,” sang a lullaby dedicated to parents who are unable to sing to their children. Singer-songwriter Alicia Keys brought her 7-year-old son, and read a letter written by a woman whose child had been taken away from her at the border.
“It’s upsetting. Families being separated, children in cages,” said Emilia Ramos, a cleaner in the district, fighting tears at the rally. “Seeing everyone together for this cause, it’s emotional.”
Around her, thousands waved signs: “I care, do you?” some read, referencing a jacket the first lady wore when visiting child migrants amid the global furor over the administration’s zero-tolerance policy that forced the separation of more than 2,000 children from their parents. Her jacket had “I really don’t care, do U?” scrawled across the back, and that message has become a rallying cry for Saturday’s protesters.
“We care!” marchers shouted outside city hall in Dallas. Organizer Michelle Wentz says opposition to the administration’s “barbaric and inhumane” policy has seemed to cross political party lines. Marchers’ signs read “Compassion not cruelty” and “November is coming.”
Trump took to Twitter on Saturday morning to show his support for Immigration and Customs Enforcement amid calls from some Democrats for major changes to immigration enforcement.
Tweeting from New Jersey, Trump said that Democrats “are making a strong push to abolish ICE, one of the smartest, toughest and most spirited law enforcement groups of men and women that I have ever seen.” He urged ICE agents to “not worry or lose your spirit.”
Though many who show up to the rallies across the country were seasoned anti-Trump demonstrators, others were new to immigration activism, including parents who say they feel compelled to show up after heart-wrenching accounts of children forcibly taken from their families as they crossed the border illegally. In Portland, Oregon, for example, several stay-at-home moms have organized their first rally while caring for young kids.
“I’m not a radical, and I’m not an activist,” said Kate Sharaf, a Portland co-organizer. “I just reached a point where I felt I had to do more.”
Immigrant advocacy groups say they’re thrilled to see the issue gaining traction.
“Honestly, I am blown away. I have literally never seen Americans show up for immigrants like this,” said Jess Morales Rocketto, political director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance, which represents nannies, housekeepers and caregivers. ”
All across the country, groups came together in city parks and downtown squares, and photos quickly started ricocheting around social media.
Some carried tiny white onesies. “What if it was your child?” was written on one. “No family jails,” said another.
Other protesters converged on the international bridge that carries traffic between El Paso and Juarez, Mexico. They carried signs with slogans like “We are all immigrants” as they chanted “Love, not hate, makes America great.”
Marchers gathered in Raleigh, in Pittsburgh, in Louisville, in Houston, in Antler, North Dakota, population 27.
Margarita Perez held up a Mexican flag as speakers addressed the crowd in Albuquerque. She said she was worried about the children taken from their families, and their parents left without knowing how to find them.
“Those children that they are incarcerating and separating, they are our future generations. We need to provide for these children,” she said. “They will be our future leaders.”
The city’s Democratic mayor took the microphone and declared they were there to “resist,” and the crowd erupted in a roar.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)