Indivisible Charlottesville will host a “Families Belong Together” event at the Albemarle County Office Building on Saturday, June 30th. Hundreds are expected to convene in protest of President Donald Trump’s family separation policy. The rally, co-sponsored by several religious and community organizations, will feature speakers from local clergy and immigrant advocacy groups.
Coming together at 11:00 a.m. Saturday morning on the corner of Preston Ave. and McIntire Road, organizers plan to “send a clear message that kids belong with their parents and families do not belong in detention camps.” The rally’s Facebook page invites protesters to “reject the racism and xenophobia being spread by Trump and his local allies like Corey Stewart.”
The controversy over the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy of forcibly separating undocumented migrants from their children has arrived at the University’s doorstep, as allegations of violent abuse have emerged against the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center, located less than one hour from Charlottesville.
One teenager from Honduras told the Associated Press that he was deprived of food at the facility, and recounted his experience of several Virginia guards “kicking him in the gut” as he struggled to breathe.
“I was just crying and praying to see my mother one more time,” the boy said.
Other accusations against officers at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center include beating immigrants as young as 14, while the detainees remained handcuffed on the ground, stripped of their clothes. Many children were detained for months — or years.
“Whenever [officers] used to restrain me and put me in the chair, they would handcuff me,” another Honduran immigrant said, according to The Chicago Tribune. He reports that he was sent to the facility when he was 15 years old. “Strapped me down all the way, from your feet all the way to your chest, you couldn’t really move,” he continued. “They have total control over you. They also put a bag over your head. It has little holes — you can see through it, but you feel suffocated with the bag on.”
Stories such as these, along with reports of more than 2,000 children separated from their parents by border control agents, bring the “Families Belong Together” movement to Charlottesville. A website sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union lists dozens of scheduled events similar to Saturday’s rally. 17 are reported in the state of Virginia alone.
Trump administration officials, including Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, have pointed to the Bible when defending the “zero tolerance” policy, encountering scrutiny from religious leaders like Pope Francis.
“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.”
Organizers of Saturday’s event reject Sessions’s assertion that the administration’s policy is necessary to maintain order, describing it instead as “inhumane.”
“Stopping Trump’s cruel immigration policy means making our voices heard now and on Election Day this November,” the Facebook page reads. “We rally in solidarity with others around the country to…demand an end to the separation and indefinite detention of immigrant families at the border.”