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A silent #ClosetheCamps vigil at the Bristol 4th of July Parade

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As they silently made their way up Hope Street and through the crowds gathering for the 2019 Bristol Fourth of July Parade, the nine protesters and their six escorts were met with silence, reproachful glares, and ugly comments.

“You are scumbags!” yelled a man from the safety of a porch. “You are scumbags!”

Another person called the the women in the protest “bitches” and still others joyfully called out, “Trump 2020!”

The protesters were holding signs calling for an end to concentration camps for undocumented immigrants along the southern border of the United States with signs asking, “How does your freedom taste?” and stating that “Families Belong Together” with the hashtag, #ClosetheCamps.

Other signs held the names of children who have died while in the custody of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), such as eight-year old Felipe Gomez Alonzo or 16 year old Juan de Leon Guttierrez.


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On average, however, I would say that more people reacted positively rather than negatively to the message of the protesters. There was applause and several people called out, “Thank you!”

One woman said, “You guys are the most patriotic thing I’ve seen all day.” Jewish veterans expressed their solidarity.

Lauren Pothier

“We’re here at the Bristol Parade protesting the camps,” said Lauren Pothier to me, who, along with Julian Trilling, organized the event.

Ahead of the event Pothier wrote:

“This is a day on which Americans will be celebrating their independence: the birth of a nation that was built on the notion of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. For Rhode Islanders, this day is marked every year by the oldest July 4th celebration in the nation: The Bristol Fourth of July Parade. For some of us, celebrating this day while there are families being torn apart at the border and children being kept sick in cages seems to be ridiculous. How can we celebrate this holiday while we turn our backs on these innocent people?”

The protesters walked silently, some with pieces of cloth around their mouths. In silence, they let their signs and their presence speak for itself. Dressed all in black, they stood out from the crowd, who were mostly dressed in the more traditional and celebratory red, white and blue. Their safety needs were met by members of the Rhode Island John Brown Gun Club, who made sure that no one angry enough to get physical would approach them, but also saw to it that all involved had enough water and provided on site medical care if necessary.

“We’re just here to see to it that their first amendment rights are protected,” said one John Brown Gun Club member.

The reactions of the politicians in the parade were interesting. Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza (Democrat) shook the hands of each of the protesters in turn, thanking them. Cranston Mayor Allan Fung (Republican) ignored them. Rhode Island State Treasurer Seth Magaziner also thanked the protesters, while Rhode Island’s congressional delegation, Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, and Representatives James Langevin and David Cicilline, all Democrats, either ignored them, didn’t see them or looked confused.

The protesters settled on the corner of Hope and Church Streets, across the street from the Channel 6 television cameras. After the parade was over the protesters and their escorts marched silently back to their cars.

Here is some video:

Pictures:


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Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade. atomicsteve@gmail.com

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