Activists from the group Central Mainers to End Family Separations stood on the corners of Main Street in Waterville on Friday afternoon to show solidarity against the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The group, which drew a crowd of 15 to 20 local residents, works with the Witness Shut Down Homestead Movement, a larger group of activists who are based in South Florida. These organizations work to draw attention to the separation of migrant families attempting to cross the border from Mexico into the United States and have the ultimate goal of getting migrant detention centers shut down.

Central Mainers to End Family Separations also operates under the protest group #StandonEveryCorner, a growing national movement of local communities organizing to hold peaceful protests for an array of causes.

According to Mary Dunn, one of the directors for Central Mainers to End Family Separations, the group is laser focused on one goal.

“We’re here to close the camps,” Dunn said.

Dunn was the catalyst behind bringing the protests to Waterville back in March and says the support continues to grow by the week.

“It started with just two of us, but every week we do this more people show up. I think the start of the presidential debates has gotten people more involved now,” Dunn said. “And we get a lot of support from people passing by, people will honk or give thumbs up. Of course we have some hecklers but the response overall has been mostly positive.”

After news of family separation happening at the border began to circulate nationwide last year, Dunn knew she had to get involved.

“I couldn’t believe it at first, I thought the news was wrong I thought they had incorrect information,” Dunn said. “I was just in complete shock.”

Family separation at the border between Mexico and the United States took a turn in April 2018 when new policies were introduced that criminally charged adult migrants attempting to cross the border, where before they were treated as civil violations.

Because children under the age of 18 couldn’t be with their relatives in prisons or detentions centers, the practice of separation has come about.

According to The New York Times, an estimated 700 families have been separated since 2018.

A protester carrying a heart-shaped sign crosses Main Street onn Friday to join others in protesting immigration detention and family separation on the southern border on the corner of Temple and Main streets in Waterville. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Dunn works remotely from her home in Oakland as a travel organizer with the Witness Shutdown Homestead Movement. She organizes trips for activists to visit the Homestead Air Force Reserve Base where a child detention center is being occupied by the protesters. According to Dunn, the group has been continuously protesting the facility for the better part of 100 days now.

One notable attendee at Friday’s rally was former Waterville Mayor Karen Heck, who has been involved with the Central Mainers to End Family Separation since the beginning.

According to Heck, the issue of separating children from their families runs deeper than political party.

“This isn’t a Republican or Democrat issue,” Heck said. “This is an issue of how we’re caring for children. … If these people are willing to risk everything in order to escape their situations in their home country to come here, that’s the kind of people America needs.”

Heck was distributing sheets of paper explaining the group’s next call to action: getting Maine’s senators and representatives to take action against the migrant camps.

Dunn further explained the group’s intentions in contacting state officials.

“Next week were going to call, email, write, communicate with Susan Collins, Angus King, Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden and demand that they go down to the border and do what they can to shut down these camps.” Dunn said.

Dunn said though the separation of families is still happening, she is hopeful for the future.

“Were going to do it, were going to stop this,” Dunn said. “Were better than this. This country is better than taking children away from their parents.”

Central Mainers to End Family Separations rallys from 4 to 5 p.m. every Friday on the corner of Main and Temple street in Waterville.

 


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