Marching for keeping families together: Willmar's march just one of hundreds nationwide
WILLMAR — Around 100 people in Willmar, both young and old, joined thousands of others across the country Saturday to march in support of families being separated both at the southern border and by the travel ban, which was upheld by the United States Supreme Court last week.
"We can't be silent, we have to show we are affected by it," said Hamdi Kosar, one of the Willmar march's organizers. "We have to show we really care about each other."
Willmar's "Welcoming is Who We Are, Faith not Fear" march and rally was organized by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Willmar and the faith group ISAIAH. The participants marched through downtown, holding signs and banging drums. There were also speeches before and afterward.
"Families do belong together, whether from war torn areas or in Willmar," said David Moody, a march organizer. "This is not about open borders. This is about opening our hearts."
Many at the march said they were upset and angered by the separation of families, especially those children taken from their families and put into shelters.
"I'm a grandma and I can't imagine my grandchildren being separated from their parents," Amy Wilde said.
It wasn't just adults at the march. Teenagers and children also made their feelings known at the march, whether by marching and holding signs with their parents or speaking up.
"I think families should not be separated from their parents. I think its wrong," said 9-year old Hailey Fadness.
Lydia Meier, a student at Willmar Senior High, spoke on how the pilgrims are honored for seeking refuge in the New World, but the refugees and some immigrants of today are treated with indifference.
"They get no thanks, and disdain," Meier said.
Those on the march said there were a few individuals in vehicles along the route who made it known they did not agree with the rally's sentiment. However, there didn't seem to be any organized counterprotest.
On Thursday, Ron Branstner, a speaker from Eden Valley, was in town to share his viewpoint on welcoming resolutions and immigration. Approximately 20 people attended the presentation at the Willmar Community Center, to hear Branstner's thoughts and concerns about the wave of welcoming resolutions being passed throughout the state, as well as immigration and refugee resettlement.
"It is people coming in and money going out. It is the redistribution of wealth. That is all it is," Branstner said. He said he worries that such movements like welcoming resolutions will end with the United States Constitution being bypassed and replaced with international law.
Those at Saturday's march believe the opposite, that those coming in are a great benefit to the community. The importance of immigration for the United States was brought up several times during the event.
"Without them our country doesn't get enriched," said Lynne Cason. "We need to show them compassion."
Marchers said they don't want completely open borders, but instead want refugees, immigrants, migrants and those seeking asylum to be treated kindly and with respect.
"People coming for the most part are good people who want to be here," Moody said. "They shouldn't be treated like criminals."
Organizers of the march were gratified by the number of people who attended and showed their support.
"I am very inspired by this," Jed Bendix said. "I am glad we have people who have heart in the community and are willing to show it."
Only together will change be possible, Kosar said.
"We need to stay connected to our humanity. We need to cry, and cry together. Then get up and fight for our humanity," Kosar said.
She also urged everyone who can to make their feelings known at the ballot box.
"This is the time we need to participate in democracy, because if we don't participate then all is still hopeless. November is the time to vote," Kosar said.