A coalition of advocacy groups flooded the streets of downtown Los Angeles Saturday, with thousands of people turning out to decry the Trump administration's policy involving the detention of families caught trying to enter the United States illegally at the Mexico border.
"If you are pro-family, you cannot separate families," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said to the crowd at Los Angeles City Hall. "... We've got a message for the White House: We care, and so should you," Garcetti said.
The mayor's speech was followed by remarks from model Chrissy Teigen, and then a performance of "What's Goin' On" and a new song, titled "Preach," by her husband, singer and musician John Legend.
Local news from across Southern California
"This an inflection moment," California Sen. Kamala Harris said.
"This is a moment in time that is requiring us to look in a mirror and ask a question, and that question is 'Who are we?' I believe the answer is 'We are better than this."'
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-South Los Angeles, who has been embroiled in an escalating war of words with President Donald Trump in recent days, later took the stage and did not hold back.
"How dare you take the babies from mothers' arms?" she asked of the Trump administration. "How dare you take the children and send them all across the country into so-called detention centers. You are putting them in cages; you are putting them in jails, and you think we're going to let you get away with that? I don't think so!"
"I know there are those who are talking about censuring me, kicking me out of Congress ... shooting me," Waters continued, alluding to recent death threats that prompted her to cancel two speaking events in the South she had planned for this weekend. "If you shoot me, you better shoot straight -- there's nothing like a wounded animal."
Other scheduled speakers included Secretary of State Alex Padilla, county Supervisor Hilda Solis, California Lt. Gov. and gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom, and Sen. Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles. MoveOn, CHIRLA, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, the Women's March LA Foundation and the Council on American-Islamic Relations were among the many groups participating.
The "Families Belong Together - Freedom for Immigrants March," was set to follow the rally, and will end in front of the immigration holding facility on Aliso and Alameda streets. Attendees were urged to wear white in a show of unity.
The L.A. march is among more than 700 protests planned nationwide.
Other #FamiliesBelongTogether Southern California rally locations include Pasadena, Irvine, Malibu, Laguna Beach, Carlsbad, National City, Ramona, San Diego, Palm Springs, Moreno Valley, Riverside and Temecula.
For the past several weeks, the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy on undocumented immigrants -- including the now-rescinded policy of separating children from their parents when they are apprehended at the Mexican border -- has sparked an international outcry.
Trump agreed to rescind the separation part of the policy, but opponents say the administration has no plan for the speedy reunification of those families. On Friday, the U.S. Justice Department filed papers in Los Angeles federal court seeking to have the families held together, indefinitely, in detention centers.
Trump addressed the issue with a tweet at around 12:45 p.m. Saturday that said: "When people come into our Country illegally, we must IMMEDIATELY escort them back out without going through years of legal maneuvering. Our laws are the dumbest anywhere in the world. Republicans want Strong Borders and no Crime. Dems want Open Borders and are weak on Crime!"
One young woman, who identified herself as Melody, recalled her journey from Guatemala as a 9-year-old after her mother was forced to leave her behind in search of a better life in the U.S.
"I know my mom left me as a baby to make sure that I had a better chance at life, something that she never had," she said.
"My heart shatters to think about the children and babies going inside these cages," she added, referencing the detention centers where many of the children separated from their parents at the border have been held.
"And at the end of my life I want to be able to talk to God and tell him, 'I have no more talent left. I used everything you gave me to represent those who didn't have a voice,'" she said. "What are you going to tell God, Donald Trump?"
A smaller counter-protest by the group L.A. County for Trump was scheduled for 12:30 p.m. at the federal detention center at 535 N. Alameda St.
"We have a number of our members in L.A. County for Trump will be broadcasting our counter-protest live on Facebook and YouTube," organizer Arthur Schaper said. "We will also have posters, signs and shirts that commemorate Americans who have been killed by illegal aliens."
A Los Angeles Police Department spokesman said that as of 2 p.m. he was not aware of any arrests at the rally.
NBC4's Rudy Chinchilla contributed to this article.