About 400 demonstrators staged a spirited and peaceful protest in downtown Santa Barbara on Wednesday night, condemning Donald Trump's cruel and xenophobic immigration policies and practices.
Tightly packed, diverse crowds filled sidewalks on all four corners of the State and Anapamu intersection, displaying local sentiment and affinity with a nationwide wave of revulsion and outrage at the Administration’s draconian actions.
Chief on the list for widespread popular censure has been the seizing of children from parents seeking asylum in the U.S., and locking them in detention centers while their mothers and fathers are jailed and criminally charged at the Mexican border.
Organized on short notice by a coalition of left liberal grassroots community groups, the protest unfolded a few hours after Trump signed an executive order, purportedly to stop the practice of separating families, which so far has interned more than 2,000 children.
At the same time, however, the 46 percent 45th president vowed to carry on operations of his “zero tolerance” anti-immigrant policy.
It has triggered international opposition, even among some customarily supine Washington Republicans.
“The executive order means something, because it is the first time Trump has capitulated,” Ralph Armbruster-Sandoval, a UCSB professor of Chicano/a Studies, and one of a series of speakers at the rally, told Newsmakers.
"It’s testimony to people speaking out," he added. "We’re going to beat him, we’re going to win.”
What Trump did. As a practical matter, there is considerable confusion and uncertainty about what effect the hastily written executive order will have on the conduct of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) at the border.
As a political matter, it is a rare case of Trump caving to pressure, as he maneuvers to defuse a volatile issue that many congressional Republicans fear will help Democrats take control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections.
The New York Times has an excellent explainer on the executive order here.
How demo went down. Among the local groups that brought together Wednesday night’s demonstration were CAUSE, Just Communities, CALM and the SB Women’s Political Committee.
Organizers wielding bullhorns led the crowd in chants – “We are here to shout our rage/no more children in the cage” and “No hate/No fear/Immigrants are Welcome Here” were two oft-repeated ones – while speakers stood on the concrete benches in front of the Museum of Art to urge sustained mass action and unconditional support for immigrants.
“We can no longer turn away and stay silent,” said Alejandra Melgoza, a CAUSE (Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy) community organizer. “All the executive order does is put children in the same prison cells as their parents.
“We demand an end to this criminal and vicious immigration policy,” Melgoza added. “We say no to internment camps.”
Jarrod Schwartz, executive director of Just Communities, suggested the tactics of ICE and the Department of Homeland Security, parallel those of the Nazis before and during World War II.
“I am here as a Jew…who lost family" in the Holocaust, Schwartz said. “I am from a community whose mantra was ‘never again.’”
Alana Walczak, CEO of CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation), said the thousands of children taken from their parents are likely to cause lasting trauma.
“Forcibly separating children from parents is unconscionable,” she said. “What has been going on in this country is (childhood) trauma.”
“It’s torture!” a voice called out.
Frank Rodriguez, a CAUSE leader, referenced recent ICE raids in Goleta and other Central Coast communities, which have been reported by the Indy's Blanca Garcia.
"This is not just something that happens at the border," he said. "It's happening here."
What is to be done. After the State Street protest, leaders invited the crowd to walk to the Sunken Gardens, to hear organizers present concrete actions that people can take to fight against the Administration.
These include contacting ICE and the Office of Refugee Resettlement directly. Other suggestions include researching companies that are profiting from the mass incarceration and training in civil disobedience techniques as a prelude to more disruptive protests.
Leaders of the protest said demonstrators must join campaigns with strategies and tactics that go beyond mass demonstrations, in order to expand the resistance to the Administration more broadly.
“Trump’s executive order,” said Melgoza, “literally means nothing.”
Images: One of scores of handmade signs displayed at the demonstration; Separated at birth? Joseph Goebbels (L) and Steven Miller, architect of Trump's immigration policy (photo illustration by Daily Kos); CAUSE organizer Alejandra Melgoza; Faces in the crowd: Three generations of the Capps family.