Hundreds in Grants Pass join nationwide protests against Trump immigration policy
For the second time in three days, demonstrators on Saturday rallied in Grants Pass to protest President Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy and the separation of immigrant children from their parents.
Around 300 people took part in the march from Riverside Park to the Josephine County Courthouse, one of the biggest organized locally by the liberal activist group Rogue Indivisible since the election of President Donald Trump in 2016.
Called the Grants Pass Families Belong Together March, the protest was the second immigration rally in a week, following one held outside the courthouse on Thursday, and one of hundreds of marches that took place nationwide on Saturday.
“I’m so pleased that there’s so much passion in this small of a town,” organizer Vicky Palmerton said.
Palmerton organized the march on a week’s notice and said she wanted to hold one in Grants Pass to give residents a closer option than traveling to the march in Medford. For Palmerton, it was important to take part in the nationwide event and to show her opposition to the separation of children from their parents at the border.
“It’s beyond appalling,” Palmerton said. “It’s, it’s, I can’t really even say how it makes me feel.”
Under the president's "zero tolerance" policy, the government has begun prosecuting all migrants caught entering the country without authorization. Under public pressure, Trump this week halted the policy of taking children from their detained parents, but many children are still being held, with some families saying they don’t know how to locate them.
Some protesters were first-timers, while others had attended the rally on Thursday. Many were galvanized by the separation of migrant children from their families.
“Kids are completely innocent in this, regardless of what their parents did,” Rick Fleischer said. “We’re going to ruin these kids’ lives.”
This was Fleischer’s first protest, and he said that he is upset by what he views as the lack of nuance and planning in how the Trump administration is implementing immigration laws.
The marches walked from Riverside Park to the courthouse holding a variety of signs, bearing slogans such as “All Families Matter,” “Hate Never Made a Nation Great,” and “Immigrants Make America Great Again!”
Some protesters also carried signs and wore shirts advocating voting out Oregon Rep. Greg Walden or supporting Jamie McLeod-Skinner, his Democratic challenger for the 2nd Congressional District in the November election.
Passing cars sometimes honked in support, eliciting cheers from the crowd, which was made up of all ages — including a number of families with small children and pets.
When they reached the courthouse, a man played guitar and sang songs like “This Land is Your Land” for the assembled crowd. One of the organizers then spoke, urging everyone to vote in November, and in particular to vote Walden out of office.
Bucky Dennerlein marched with her daughter and granddaughter who were visiting from Portland.
“I live here and I want my community to be compassionate. That’s why I’m here — because I believe that what we’re doing is wrong,” Dennerlein said.
For Amy Montes, immigration has affected her family personally. Montes’ grandmother immigrated from Mexico and her father was a first generation Mexican-American. Although Montes said that she hasn’t personally experienced a lot of discrimination, she said her family has and she said she wanted to help represent Mexican-Americans in this predominately white area.
“I’m also a nurse practitioner and work in child abuse, so seeing children being treated poorly every day at this big of a scale by leaders in government — it’s just unacceptable,” Montes said.
During the march, Palmerton said that she didn’t see much negative reaction from the community, which she said the group has experienced in the past.
Said Palmerton, “I believe that even for some people that may be Trump supporters, this has gone too far.”