Various activists and officials spoke out against family separations along the southern border with Mexico during a rally at the Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza in Jersey City last night.Â
Michael Billy, Chief Executive Officer for the Hudson Pride Center, led the organizing effort to rally the community and elected officials to participate.
The rally comes on the heels of massive protests this past weekend around the country organized by Families Belong Together, which led 30,000 people in New York City to march from Foley Square over the Brooklyn Bridge to Cadman Plaza.
We interviewed Billy on camera to ask him about the significance of the event.
“A lot of people feel powerless, that they can’t do anything about what’s happening on the national level. And events like this reminds people that the power of unity, especially when there is so much diversity, gives them that power to have that voice,” said Billy.
“It means the world to these people who feel unsafe in their own city.”
We also asked him about what types of stories he is hearing about residents who may have or know of others’ family members who may have been separated from their loved ones trying to enter the country.
“Absolutely, there is an Iranian chef and she came here to this country to work and she’s not able to go home to her family and her family is not able to see her because bans like this are rooted in racism and falsehoods and keep families apart, and those are not American values.”
Prior to the event, Mayor Steven Fulop arrived to speak with the organizers, but didn’t have a chance to speak to the crowd because of another scheduled event.
However, Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey and Ward E Councilman James Solomon told the crowd the importance of city legislation to counter national policies detrimental to immigrant families.
“As everyone has said here better than I am going to, everyone has an immigrant family because all of our families came from somewhere else. I’m so glad that we are also working on legislation to create Municipal IDs so people regardless of their status can take advantage of things that the city has to offer,” said Prinz-Arey.
Solomon recounted conversations he had with Jersey City residents while volunteering for the Hillary Clinton campaign in Pennsylvania.
“I asked them, why are you out here. And they were immigrants who said they were worried about what was going to happen to our country; they were Muslims who said they were worried about how they are going to protect themselves,” said Solomon, who used to spearhead the Evict Trump-Kushner initiative before being elected to the council.
“It was fear that drove that energy, but we have to do better than fear. That’s why we have to get to work.”
The rally, which streamed live on our Facebook page, can be viewed below: