Though the volume coming from the single PA speaker on the steps of the Monroe County Courthouse was quiet, the message was loud and clear: reunite immigrant families.
Over 200 people in Bloomington and thousands more across the nation gathered as part of the #FamiliesBelongTogether marches and rallies that took place Saturday in response to the zero-tolerance immigration policy set forth by president Donald Trump's administration.
Outside the courthouse, demonstrators battled immense heat to show their support for reuniting families which have been separated at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent weeks. Speakers at the event included Gavin Everett of the Bloomington Commission on Hispanic and Latino Affairs and Luis Fuentes-Rohwer, a professor of law and Harry T. Ice Faculty Fellow at IU.
Fuentes-Rohwer also emceed the event and is of Puerto Rican decent.
“This moment here today, now, it is about our future," Fuentes-Rohwer said. "It is about what it means to live in this country."
Abby Ang, an associate instructor at IU, also spoke at the event while representing the IU Muslim Student Association and said the zero-tolerance policy extends to the recent Supreme Court decision to uphold Trump’s travel ban, which targets several predominantly Muslim countries. Ang said the Trump administration's immigration policies are “racist and xenophobic.”
Another speaker, Bloomington attorney Christine Popp, who according to her website focuses exclusively on immigration, told the crowd she was there first as a mother. She said her worst fear is being separated from her child.
While the immigration policy does not mandate the separation of families, the Trump administration has cracked down on the prosecution of individuals who illegally enter the U.S., which has led to family separations.
In addition to speakers, demonstrators could also register to vote while at the rally. There was also a tent where demonstrators could write the names of family members on ribbons, which would then be pinned to the “Keep Our Families Together” banner that was being worked on throughout the rally.
The crowd listened as one speaker after another spoke about their experience with immigration in the U.S.
Each speaker also ended their time by imploring people to vote in the November primaries and to stay involved with local elections by volunteering to help those running for office.
Towards the end of the rally, speaker Manuel Diaz-Campos, president of the 9th district Indiana Latino Caucus, was briefly interrupted by a lone counter protestor. After Diaz-Campos said children were being separated from their families at the border, the counter protestor said 10,000 of those children crossed the border without their parents.
Some demonstrators moved in to speak with the counter protestor and the rally continued without interruption.
Though all the speakers shared different stories, each talked about how inspired they were by the turnout of demonstrators at the rally.
Jane Henegar, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, looked into the crowd of supporters holding custom signs and said “Bloomington may not be the capital of Indiana, but it is the heart of Indiana.”