Howard County groups will continue protesting family separation during rush hour

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A Howard County group plans to protest the separation of immigrant children from their parents this afternoon the same way they have for the past two weeks — holding signs and waving to cars during rush hour on Gorman Road over Interstate 95.

The group, the Howard County Indivisible Immigration Action Team, has demonstrated from 4 to 7 p.m. “to express our outrage at the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy, and the separation of families,” said Tammy Spengler, a co-facilitator of the team. About 45 people took part last week, and 80 are expected today, according to a news release.

They’ve been joined by groups such as Our Revolution, the Unitarian Universalist Immigration Task Force, Columbia Jewish Congregation Tikkun Olam Committee and Progressive Maryland and other teams from Indivisible of Howard County, said Roslyn Zinner, an Indivisible member.

“It’s been an incredible vehicle for people to express their outrage,” Spengler said. “And it’s been shocking and inspiring to us, as protestors, to see people hanging out of their car and waving, honking, crying, screaming ‘thank you’ — overwhelming support.”

On June 20, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to end family separation at the border, and on June 26, a federal judge said the government had 30 days to reunite children with their families.

An Indivisible news release said that traffic “slowed in both directions as trucks and cars were nearing the overpass, and hundreds of drivers wave or tooted their horns in support.”

“There was about a 90 percent honking and approval to [10 percent] middle-finger ratio,” Zinner said with a laugh.

Zinner said the slowed traffic is a “small price to pay.”

“We’re talking about people’s lives and families, real families, that haven’t done anything wrong other than try to escape some violent, bad situations in their home countries,” she said.

Richard Kohn, a University of Maryland professor who teaches nutrition and mathematical modeling classes and is a member of the group, said he estimated — by calculating the number of lanes, the length of the protest and a base of one car with one passenger passing per second — that more than 86,000 cars drove by during each protest.

The annual average daily traffic passing I-95’s Gorman Road overpass stands at 199,131 for traffic in both directions, according to a state Highway Location Reference document, which has data as of Dec. 31, 2016. The group’s traffic estimate appears “consistent with average” traffic flow, said State Highway Administration assistant media relations manager Shanteé Felix.

The SHA regional operations staff “have not seen protest groups or experienced any unusual traffic impacts around the Gorman Road overpass for the last few Fridays,” Felix wrote in an email.

"This event does not require a permit,” wrote Lori Boone, a Howard County Police Department spokeswoman, in an email. “HCPD has been in touch with organizers in an effort to ensure safety for everyone involved. Officers will make area checks for the same reason. We're not aware of any issues being reported."

Beyond this Friday, the group hasn’t determined where the next protest will occur, which they’ll be discussing at their meeting Monday — but they will continue to stand against the policy.

“We’re going to keep working and advocating that these children be reunited,” Spengler said. “That’s not gonna stop.”

lbrennan@baltsun.com

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