Hundreds of people gathered in Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza on July 12 to protest conditions for immigrants and threats of planned immigration enforcement raids this past weekend.
The rally started at about 5 p.m. and was at times sullen, sad and reflective. There was little anger, but the speakers and crowd were determined and at times ferocious. At other times they bowed their head in prayer and the entire crowd was silenced in heartbreak.
Oakland City Councilman Noel Gallo, who represents the Fruitvale District, invited his 11-year-old cousin to share his time. She burst into tears while thinking of migrant children separated from their families.
“They need to be free and with their families like me,” she said, choking back tears.
The rally was one of several planned in the Bay Area and hundreds across the country on Friday. It was organized by the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance AFL-CIO, but endorsed by other labor unions, faith groups and elected officials.
The protesters were deeply disturbed by reports of terrible conditions at the border with Mexico, with children held separated from their parents and detention camps that were overcrowded without giving detainees access to proper food or hygiene.
In addition, President Donald Trump has threatened mass deportation roundups.
Several local elected officials spoke at the rally. “Alameda County is committed to this fight,” said Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan.
She pointed out that the county recently funded a permanent immigration office at the Public Defender’s Office, as well as a hotline (510-241-4011) for immigrants to call for legal assistance if they are detained by immigration authorities.
City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan ceded her time to her policy director, Bobbi Lopez, who recalled coming to the U.S. as an immigrant in the 1980s when she was 7 years old. “I was scared,” she said.
But she remained with trusted family, unlike many of the children arriving in the U.S. today. Instead, they are being held in “subhuman conditions,” she said. “This kind of behavior cannot be normalized,” she said.
Councilwoman Nikki Fortunato Bas, the daughter of immigrants from the Philippines, said Trump’s policies are the result of “white supremacy and hate, making history repeat itself over and over again.”
“Tonight we send love and healing to families who are feeling the unspeakable pain of separation,” she said.
In Palo Alto, about 300 people gathered at 555 High St. outside the headquarters of Palantir Technologies. The company helps other organizations harness data and protesters said one of those organizations is U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The protesters were demanding that the company stop its alleged cooperation and collaboration with ICE.
“ICE uses them to plan mass raids and mass arrests,” said Megan Glenn, co-chair of the Silicon Valley Democratic Socialists of America.
Palantir did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the rally outside their offices.
In Benicia, nearly 400 people started gathering at about 7:30 p.m. at City Park at First Street and Military West.
They went to hear civic and community leaders demand an end to immigration detention centers along the southern U.S. border. Music, poetry and art were part of the event.
Similar gatherings occurred in San Francisco, Castro Valley, Santa Cruz and Redwood City. Each was part of the Lights for Liberty nationwide candlelight vigil to denounce the detention centers, which are reportedly dehumanizing to migrants.
More than 800 Lights for Liberty gatherings were planned nationwide.