Demonstrators chanting such slogans as "Shame, shame shame" and "Love, not hate, makes America great" turned out in hundreds of cities across the country Saturday to protest the separation of children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border and to press President Donald Trump's administration to reunite the families quickly.
Liberal activists, parents and first-time protesters were attending more than 600 marches nationwide, in immigrant-friendly cities like Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago and conservative Appalachia and Wyoming, all under the banner Families Belong Together. Some wore foil blankets like the ones that were distributed to the children held by immigration officials.
In New York, crowds gathered in sweltering 86-degree morning heat at a Manhattan park before marching across the Brooklyn Bridge in sight of the Statue of Liberty to a plaza near the federal courthouse in Brooklyn. They sang "shut detention down" and provided a refrain of "shame" as an organizer ran down a list of people blamed for the separations.
U.S. & World
News from around the country and around the globe
"Anybody who has a human heart should be here," said Sylvia Hernandez, a 57-year-old quilt artist. "I don't understand how in Washington they don't see it that way."
"Trump has separated the them and the us," she said.
Another demonstrator, a 34-year-old domestic worker from Guerrero, Mexico, who asked to remain anonymous, said immigrants were not animals to be put in cages, as happened to some of the children held by immigration officials.
"In New York people get upset when animals are put in cages," she said. "Now imagine children. They are not guilty, they come to look for a better future and haven't done anything wrong."
Immigrants are not criminals, she said, but come to the United States to work with dignity and humility.
"We did not come here to steal jobs," she said.
In the afternoon Trump tweeted in support of strict immigration enforcement, praising Republicans and criticizing Democrats.
"When people come into our Country illegally, we must IMMEDIATELY escort them back out without going through years of legal maneuvering," he wrote. "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!"
At the main rally in Washington, D.C., Lin-Manuel Miranda performed "Dear Theodosia," the song he wrote for his Broadway hit "Hamilton" in which Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton welcome their children into the world and to the young nation.
"I think everyone with a shred of compassion has thought, 'What if that was my child?'" he told NBC News. "Or if they don't have children, 'What if that was me, separated from my parents?' I don't know how your heart can't break for these images."
Protestors came together in Lafayette Square, just north of the White House, before marching through the streets to the Department of Justice. They chanted "shame" and waved signs in English and Spanish, one of which demanded, "Where are the children?"
"Melania & Ivanka, stop the child abuse," another declared.
Actress Diane Guerrero, whose parents were deported to Colombia when she was only 14, talked about the pain separation has caused her own family. She told the crowd that the stakes for the country were too visible to be ignored.
"It has reached you," she said. "It has reached all of us and forced us to ask ourselves what kind of country do we want to be. One that violates the rights of children, including the fundamental right to seek asylum? Or do we want to be an America that values children and families and the freedom to be who we are?"
Guerrero, 31, whose older brother also was later deported, is known for her roles in Netflix's "Orange Is the New Black' and the CW's "Jane the Virgin," said she had taught herself to have hope.
"I have to believe that this is an opportunity for us to rise above the tyranny, the ignorance, the malpractice," she said. "And believe in change."
Veteran civil rights protester Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia told the crowd in Atlanta, "We are one people, we are one family. Maybe our foremothers and our forefathers all came to this land in different ships, but we're all in the same boat."
Lewis reminded those in his audience of the rallies he organized in the 1960s against segregation and inequality and urged them: "As a nation and a people we can do better. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Keep marching."
In front of San Francisco City Hall, the crowd sang "No more deportations" to the tune of "We Will Rock You" with Oakland hip-hop artist and activist Gina Madrid.
"We have to keep in mind and understand that we are all immigrants in this country unless you're Native American," Madrid said. "We're standing on stolen land."
Though many of Saturday's demonstrators were seasoned anti-Trump demonstrators, others who planned to attend were new to immigration activism, among them parents who said that they felt 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," Kate Sharaf, a Portland co-organizer told The Associated Press. "I just reached a point where I felt I had to do more."
Immigrant advocacy groups say they're thrilled — and surprised — to see the issue gaining traction among those not tied to immigration.
"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, many of whom are immigrants. "We just kept hearing over and over again, if it was my child, I would want someone to do something."
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts told the thousands rallying at Boston Common after a march from City Hall that children and parents must be reunited swiftly.
"This is about children held in cages," she said. "This is about mamas who want their children back."
A second demonstration was planned for the afternoon, with a march from Wellington Common Park to the South Bay House of Correction, a county jail in Boston which houses undocumented immigrants apprehended by federal officials. Organizers are demanding local government agencies stop cooperating with federal immigration authorities.
Thousands gathered as well in downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico, including many who've been protesting Trump since his election in 2016. They voiced concerns about everything from abortion rights and the future makeup of the Supreme Court to what if any influence Russia might have on American politics.
Margarita Perez of Albuquerque held up a small Mexican flag as speakers addressed the crowd. Accompanied by her daughter, she said she was concerned about the children who were being detained and for those parents who did not know where their children were taken.
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller, a Democrat, told the crowd of his trip to the US-Mexico border, where he and other mayors were denied a tour of a shelter at the Tornillo port of entry outside of El Paso, Texas. He elicited a roar from the crowd when he said "We are here to push back, to resist."
Saturday's rallies are getting funding and support from the American Civil Liberties Union, MoveOn.org, the National Domestic Workers Alliance and The Leadership Conference. But local organizers are shouldering on-the-ground planning, many of them women relying on informal networks established during worldwide women's marches on Trump's inauguration and its anniversary.
Tyler Houlton, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, welcomed interest in the immigration system and said only Congress has the power to change the law.
"We appreciate that these individuals have expressed an interest in and concern with the critical issue of securing our nation's borders and enforcing our immigration laws," Houlton said. "As we have indicated before, the department is disappointed and frustrated by our nation's disastrous immigration laws and supports action."
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."
In Portland, Sharaf and other mothers who organized the rally hope to attract 5,000 people.
Right-wing activists with the group Patriot Prayer also have a permit to march later in the day Saturday and the Portland Police Bureau said Friday they planned to have a heavy police presence.
Sharaf and co-organizer Erin Conroy have coordinated with immigrant advocacy groups.
"This is not my wheelhouse," Conroy said. "As far as I'm concerned, this is a national emergency that we all need to be focused on right now."
That passion is heartening for the broader anti-Trump coalition, which hopes marches will attract people who have otherwise been on the sidelines, said David S. Meyer, a political science professor at the University of California, Irvine, who has authored books on U.S. political protest.
"There are people who have all kinds of other grievances or gripes with the Trump administration and they're quite happy to use this one as the most productive and salient for the moment," he said.
Immigration attorney Linda Rivas said groups have met with U.S. authorities, congressional representatives and other leaders to discuss an escalating immigration crackdown that they say began decades ago. But the family separation policy has been a watershed for attracting a broader spectrum of demonstrators, she said.
"To finally have people on board wanting to take action, marching, taking to the streets, it's been motivating for us as advocates because we have to keep going," Rivas said.