'Protect the children': Protesters rally in downtown Baltimore against separation of families at border

Hundreds of demonstrators blocked traffic at Gay and East Lombard streets during the evening rush hour Wednesday to protest the separation of children from their families who have entered the country illegally.

The rally outside the Baltimore office of U.S. Customs and Border Protection was organized by a group of city schoolteachers

“I see this as a beginning, said Alan Rebar, who teaches immigrants and refugee students.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order earlier in the day that he said would keep families together at the border. But Rebar said much more work needs to be done.

“Immigrants need to be able to cross borders,” he said. “They need citizenship. They need amnesty.”

Early on, the protest broke into two factions.

One group stood in the street and blocked traffic. While chanting, they drew comparisons between ICE, police and the KKK.

“There has to be a disruptive element to protest or else it’s not a protest,” said Ian Iacovelli, 35.

But they alienated some of the more moderate demonstrators.

“Now we don’t have any cars to see the posters,” Carol Marchant said. She held signs that said: “No more internment camps” and “Protect the children.”

Krish Vignarajah, running for governor, and Thiru Vignarajah, running for Baltimore state’s attorney, both participated. The siblings came to the United States with their parents from Sri Lanka to flee the civil war. Krish Vignarajah, holding her 1-year-old daughter on her hip, told the crowd that her mother cried watching images of parents being separated from their children.

As she spoke, her daughter batted at the microphone, at one point holding it to her mouth and cooing.

“She obviously feels that she has something to say as well,” said Vignarajah.

Her dad, Elyathamby Vignarajah, came, too.

“I have to support all those people,” he said.

He held his granddaughter while her mom went to talk to voters.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations joined as a sponsor of the event. Zainab Chaudry, the director of Maryland outreach at CAIR, compared the separations happening at the border to the Holocaust.

“We say, ‘Never again,’ ” she said, “but ‘never again’ is happening again, and it’s happening in our time and on our watch.”

Rabbi Andrew Gordon pointed to the brown Holocaust memorial across the street from the federal Custom House.

“It’s been pulling at my heartstrings over the last couple days to hear what’s been coming from the administration,” he said. “Especially standing here at the Holocaust memorial and remembering what happened to my people.”

Nearby, children played in the gravel of the memorial — designed to resemble a train station that would have taken Jews to death camps in Germany and Austria.

On a cement wall, an excerpt from Primo Levi’s “Survival in Auschwitz” read: “...in an instant, our women, our parents, our children disappeared.”

ctkacik@baltsun.com

twitter.com/xtinatkacik

An earlier version of this article gave the wrong title for Zainab Chaudry. She is the director of Maryland outreach at CAIR.
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