Around 9:30 when I arrived at the scene, the rally had already begun and the level of energy was on the rise. Several women shared stories of family separation resulting from deportation and demanded that the House pass a bill that will help keep immigrant families together. There was even a twelve-year-old girl who spoke about how her father had been detained and how she does not know when she will be able to see him again. I was greatly impacted by their stories since I was able to hear directly from those who are most affected by our country's flawed immigration system.
As chants were recited both in English and in Spanish, a large pack of police officers began to gather across the street. The officers stationed themselves in orderly rows, and before long the women started to march into the intersection. I had assumed that they were only going to block one crosswalk, but instead they formed themselves into a circle that stalled traffic from all sides. They proceeded to sit down on the pavement, locking arms and shouting, "Immigration reform now!" The police allowed this to go on for a few minutes, and then issued warnings through megaphones that anyone who stayed in the street would be arrested.
At this point I had to scurry over to the sidewalk to join all the other onlookers who did not plan on spending the afternoon in jail. One by one, the police started arresting the women. However, this was not enough to crush their spirit and if anything, it only worked to intensify it. While the protest certainly grabbed the attention of Hill staff members, tourists, and the press, I wondered how strongly it would urge Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. I admired the women for their effort to enact social change, and I hope that their voices will be heard by members of the House.
Attending this protest was undoubtedly the highlight of my week because I had never before experienced anything like it. It gave me a better understanding of the work carried out at the Center for Community Change since the protest exemplified the organization's efforts to amplify the voices of those who are most affected by social and economic injustice. I was able to see firsthand what it means to mobilize grassroots groups from the local to the national level, given that some of the women involved had traveled from as far away as California. I enjoyed having the opportunity to witness this event, and I look forward to what the next few months at CCC will bring.