By Anika Lanser
As news of families being separated at the border and children being detained in the United States while their parents are deported shook the nation, groups began to organize for nationwide protests to be held on June 30. Joining the masses of over 600 marches throughout the country was a group of about 100 people protesting at the dock in Fair Harbor.
The protests come in response to President Trump’s zero-tolerance policy that requires the criminal prosecution of anyone who crosses the border illegally. Members of the administration like Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielson have defended the policy. In a statement to the New York Times she downplayed the systematic separation as an effect of prosecuting those who cross illegally. Meanwhile over 2,000 children have been separated from their families. Many have not spoken to their parents since being separated, and many parents do not know where their children are being held. In response to widespread outcry concerning family separation, President Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday, June 20, ending family separation at the border but there is still no clear system in place for reuniting the children with their families. According to NBC News, the executive order may result in families being detained together for indefinite amounts of time.
Protesters came from all over the island to participate in the event called Fire Island Communities Say Families Belong Together! The event was organized by Rebecca Vilkomerson, Danielle Asher, and Beth Mindes. Keeping with the national protests organized by MoveOn and supported by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and The Leadership Conference protesters were encouraged to wear white, to symbolize the protest’s alignment with past actions for racial and social justice. In true Fire Island fashion, Fair Harbor protesters also were encouraged to bring their red wagons for the march around Fair Harbor.
The protest opened with words from its organizers who spoke about the policies of the Trump administration and zero-tolerance immigration policy. Then, led by a saxophone player carrying the tune “This Land is Our Land,” protesters marched with their signs and wagons through Fair Harbor and back to the dock. As the crowd marched, residents came out on their decks to spectate and cheer.
Throughout the protest, money was raised for Long Island Jobs with Justice, an organization based in Hauppauge that is committed to protecting the rights of workers. The organization also is beginning to work in support of immigrant families, helping to resist deportations, and providing funds that will help support families with legal fees and economic hardship as a result of deportation. Fire Island resident Lily sold lemonade out of her red wagon at the protest and donated all the profits to the collection of funds for Long Island Jobs with Justice.