Note: A rally also is scheduled for Saturday at 11 a.m. at the State Capitol in Salt Lake City.
OGDEN, Utah, June 29, 2018 (Gephardt Daily) — Feelings were strong and the message was powerful. “Keep families together!” “Down with Fascism!” “Bigly Mistake!” Almost everyone brought a handmade sign expressing their opinion of Zero Tolerance and the separating of children from their families seeking asylum in the United States.
The crowd in front of Ogden’s Municipal Building on Wednesday night was diversity and community in action.
Indivisible Ogden, Americans Coming Together in Ogden and Nationwide (ACTION), Occupy ICE, and Black Lives Matter were some of the groups represented.
Organizers pointed out that they partnered with Voterise and have the support of the League of Women Voters.
But the majority of the people carrying signs were part of a grass roots movement driven by concern over what they see as an erosion of “American” values.
Pam Harrison, a team leader with Indivisible Ogden told Gephardt Daily the organization was formed “on the Sunday before Trump was inaugurated.”
According to Harrison, 149 people said they’d be coming to the rally, and 404 expressed interest in coming. As more and more people gathered on the lawn and sidewalks along Washington Boulevard, it was clear that many of the “interested” had shown up.
Effects of separation on children
One of the speakers at the Ogden rally was Margaret Kluthe, M.D., a pediatrician. Kluthe outlined the physical risks and emotional trauma experienced by children who’ve been separated from their parents and placed in “camps” in various parts of the U.S.
“Chicken pox and other illnesses have swept through these crowded facilities,” Kluthe said. “In tent cities in Texas, the temperature is over 100 degrees.”
She talked about the “emotional fallout” from being separated and moved around, warning that these kids are likely to experience PTSD, with nightmares and anxiety for months or even years.
“Stress releases chemicals that are damaging to the brain and the body, which the American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes as ‘toxic stress,'” Kluthe said. “It impairs development and emotional maturation and increases vulnerability to illnesses.”
Kluthe said reunification of children and their parents “needs to be pursued aggressively, whatever the cost.” And because the families have been separated by considerable time and distance, she wants officials to use “DNA confirmation” to make sure each child too young to speak up for him- or herself is reunited with their actual parent.
Profiling and prejudice
Hilda Brown, Arlene Anderson and Luis Casillas are members of Americans Coming Together in Ogden and Nationwide (ACTION). They emphasized that the organization is “very grass roots and started over a conversation.”
Asked if they had ever experienced any of the confrontational type of incidents that have been turning up in videos on social media, all three said they had.
Casillas, who said he’s been in America since 1989 and a resident of Utah since 1997, told of being in a mall when a security guard approached and stopped him.
“He asked for my green card. He thought I was undocumented. When he realized I spoke English and wasn’t here illegally, he kind of apologized and walked away.”
Brown said she was making a poster at the Farmer’s Market when someone yelled at her, “What gives you the right to challenge Trump?”
Anderson said she was in Layton, going for a run, and a woman was coming up behind her.
“So I moved over and yielded so she could go by. And she said, ‘Go back where you came from!’ and pushed me down. She actually put her hands on me.”
Angela Urrea, a former captain in the U.S. Army, was the first up to the microphone to address the assembled crowd. She explained how the rally came to be organized and said the goal “is to discuss truth and facts.”
One of the facts she mentioned is that crossing the border illegally for the first time is a misdemeanor.
“(In the past) asylum seekers were given court dates…but Trump is arresting them at the border,” she said.
She doesn’t gloss over the fact that a percentage of those asylum seekers would fail to show up for their court date. Her concern now, though, is that they are being arrested immediately and their children taken away, with no policy in place to reunite them.
Other speakers briefly shared their thoughts with the crowd.
Eulogio Alejandre reminded everyone that, “It’s not the ‘American Dream,’ it’s the human dream.”
And he got the audience to repeat with him, several times,
“Separating families does not make sense.”
Alejandre said the cost of keeping the children away from their parents is over $700 per day per child, a figure backed up by NBCNews and other sources.
Pam Harrison listed a “Trump tsunami of issues,” including climate change denial, health care, the environment, “continued legislative paralysis” regarding school shootings, international relations leaving us in an “upside-down world,” and attacking a free press.
Bart Tippetts, a member of Occupy ICE, said a judge in California recently ordered that young children must be reunited with their parents within 14 to 20 days.
“That’s too long!” Tippetts said. “It took 24 hours to get them to New York…it should take 24 hours to get them back.”
Anna Jane Arroyo said she was “so proud” of longtime Utah Catholic priest Father Charles Cummins being at the rally.
“This place should be jam packed with every priest, minister, everyone who calls themselves Christian,” she said.