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Protesters against Trump immigration policies march over Brooklyn Bridge

"We love our kids cage free" and "Trump holding children for ransom," read the signs of protesters Saturday.

The End Family Separation NYC Rally and March

The End Family Separation NYC Rally and March kicked off in Manhattan on Saturday morning. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Kena Betancur

Thousands in Manhattan on Saturday marched across the Brooklyn Bridge — one of hundreds of demonstrations nationwide — to protest the Trump administration’s immigration policies, including a rescinded practice of separating immigrant children and parents suspected of illegally crossing the U.S. border together.

The End Family Separation NYC Rally and March began at Foley Square in Manhattan at 10:30 a.m. Protesters marched through Manhattan and across the Brooklyn Bridge before rallying in Cadman Plaza around 11:45 a.m.

“Every day, this administration threatens the very future of our communities,” organizers wrote on the Facebook event for the march. “The conditions these children are being subjected to is deplorable and un-American.”

The protest follows an especially tumultuous few weeks for the Trump administration, which came under heavy fire for its policy to separate children from their parents or guardians after crossing the United States-Mexico border without proper documentation. While President Donald Trump has signed an executive order ending the policy, most children haven’t been reunited with their parents, marchers noted Saturday.

“Families belong together and FREE!” read one protester's sign, clipped to a baby stroller.

“We love our kids cage free,” read another.

“Trump holding children for ransom,” read another, a reference to criticism by the political left that the administration implemented the separation policy as a negotiating tactic with Congress.

Tens of thousands of people joined sister rallies in hundreds of cities, including Dallas; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Washington. 

In Manhattan’s Foley Square, sign-holding picketers filled the plaza, a nearby courthouse's steps and surrounding streets, chanting, banging drums, and handing out anti-Trump literature, before marching toward the bridge for a rally across the East River in Brooklyn.

“Cruelty towards children — it’s definitely a terrorizing technique,” said Teddy Pearlman, 65, an Upper West Side resident. “Not only is it fascistic, it’s terrorism.”

Pearlman, a retired special-education teacher, said, “I’m not really interested in enforcement” of immigration laws. More important, he said, are looser rules to admit more immigrants legally.

Pepper Lewis, a 39-year-old retired caretaker, held a sign that read, “End family concentration camps,” with a frowning Statue of Liberty gripping American-flag bars. Lewis, of Croton-on-Hudson, wore a T-shirt bearing the title of John Lennon's “Imagine” song, which envisions a world without borders and without countries.

Lewis said she wants no immigration limits, assuming a migrant has good intentions and isn’t a member of a gang like MS-13.

“If we all open our arms and welcome one another and welcome each other, this world would be a much better place,” she said.

Dan Ocampo, 22, of the Upper East Side, a paralegal and U.S. citizen originally from the United Kingdom, said he would be willing to agree to the U.S.-Mexico border wall proposed by Trump and stronger borders in exchange for concessions such as the abolition of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, easing immigration limits, and more acceptance of refugees in need.

"Undocumented people in this country is not good for anybody. It's not good for them. It's not good for anybody else," he said. "It creates abuse. They live in fear of the law. They're abused by employers. And it's a little bit lawless in a sense."

To deter illegal immigration, the Trump administration adopted a “zero-tolerance” policy to arrest and prosecute immigrants who are suspected of illegally crossing the border.

Under the policy, if an adult was with a child when caught at the border, the American government would put the child into a shelter or foster care during the prosecution. Trump instituted the separation policy in the spring, and reversed it June 20 under political pressure.

Migrant families caught crossing the border without proper documentation will now be detained together, the administration has said.

On Tuesday, a federal judge in California ordered the separated children reunited within 30 days, but it remains unclear how the government intends to achieve that. There are an estimated 2,000 immigrant families who remain separated, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Michael Altman, a retired welfare case worker and third-grade teacher who lives in the Financial District, held a bright sign that read "ORANGE ALERT," with a crude drawing of Trump and the words, "WANTED FOR 2,500 CHILD ABDUCTIONS."

"I don't know what we will accomplish," Altman, 76, said on the steps of state Supreme Court on Centre Street. "But I know to be silent in the face of children being put in cages in this country is unforgivable, and I couldn't forgive myself if I weren't here."

National outcry over the policy also struck close to home after Mayor Bill de Blasio discovered some 300 of the separated children had been transported to the city without his administration’s knowledge and were being cared for by foster care facilities in East Harlem and the Bronx.


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