Written on: September 6, 2019
On September 4 several hundred people gathered in St. Mary’s Church in Newark, N J. the starting place of the prayerful, nonviolent procession to Federal Building and ICE office. Sisters Bridget Connor, Mary Salvador and I, Diane Bardol were among them.
This was phase two of the campaign “Stop the Inhumanity – NOW” organized by thirteen Catholic groups to end the traumatizing abuse of immigrant children and their families by the U.S. government. Newark, New Jersey was chosen because it has a Federal ICE office connected to the system of detaining children and the obstruction of reuniting children with their families. New Jersey also has 4 immigration detention centers, incarcerating as many as 2500 people. While no children are in these facilities, parents who have been separated from their children at the southern border are detained here.
In the face of the enormity of the plight of the refugees many ask, I being among them, “What can a demonstration or protest march accomplish?” At some point during the protest in front of the Federal Building I answered that question for myself.
I heard a policemen ask protesters to move in closer to the building, off the taxi stops on the street. He continued by saying it was a matter if safety for all, and convenience for those not participating in the event.
Sounds thoughtful, right?
But isn’t a protest a symbolic action meant to shed light on an otherwise too easily ignored situation?
-What about the inconvenience of families having to move thousands of miles from their country of origin just in order to survive?
-What about the safety of those children separated from their parents and placed in detention centers?
-What about the inconvenience of being born poor?
I suggest that the inconvenience of delay in traffic or difficulty in finding a parking place, or having to be extra careful driving because of the huge number of pedestrians pales in comparison next to the reality of the life and death circumstances being protested. The “inconveniences” became a way that many others participated in the action that day, albeit unknowingly.