Hundreds of protesters descended on the plaza outside federal government offices downtown on Wednesday evening, July 9, as part of a nationwide day of action in support of a stream of Central American children and mothers illegally crossing into the United States.
"We're here to provide a loving response to the actions others have taken against these children," said Birdie Gutierrez, one of the event's organizers.
Several demonstrators stood nearby, holding signs encouraging the government to "Welcome the Children" and provide "Liberty and Justice for All." Others waved American flags. A group of Native American dancers held court on a pedestal, with a small pot burning sage and the traditional dances providing an "offering of love to children."
"The vitriol, the racism we've experienced, that's unacceptable," Gutierrez said, describing her recent experience at an Escondido City Council meeting where locals vociferously opposed a plan to convert a former medical facility into temporary housing where juvenile detainees would await processing. In Murrieta, a crowd of protesters last week prevented a bus carrying women and children from accessing a Border Patrol facility there.
Various speakers argued on the immigrants' behalf, blaming trade policy such as NAFTA and the U.S. "War on Drugs" for creating conditions of widespread violence and poverty that are driving the current mass migration.
"Many of these children came here because they've already lost their homes, their families. There's nothing to send them back to. And everyone deserves a safe, secure childhood," Gutierrez concluded.