PEORIA — “I believe in a unified community,” said Jimena Lopez, president of the Peoria chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, at a rally Saturday at the Federal Building in Downtown Peoria.
An estimated 125 immigration rights supporters in Peoria showed up for the rally, hosted by Indivisible Peoria Area and the ACLU, against the recent treatment of immigrants and asylum seekers by the Trump administration.
Attendees featured several sign-bearers, a few thermal blankets meant to mirror those that have been given to children, and a parody of Melania Trump’s controversial jacket. The wearer of the jacket, Rebecca Lord, said that she was “there for the children, simple as that.”
Signs read “United States means united families,” “remember to vote,” and “everyone is welcome in Peoria.” Many drivers-by were honking in support of the cause, some drivers even holding their own signs out of their windows.
Several protesters had family in mind when they showed up to raise their voices, as keeping families together was the focus of the event. Therese Kunze of Bloomington showed up for this reason, “I’m a mother and a grandma. I have empathy for the family and the kids especially. This is against what America is all about.”
Diana Mather, another attendee, said she was there because she is concerned for America.
“The zero tolerance policy is inhumane and cruel," Mather said. "You aren’t going to drag a child across the border unless you really need to. What’s going on, America?”
Children’s psychologist Dr. Rebecca Eder spoke about the effects that the separations will have on these children.
“It’s called broken attachment," she said. "It wrecks their lives forever and there’s no going back. It causes behavioral problems, depression and suicide.”
She said that broken attachment has been researched heavily through children in Nazi Germany, Russia, North Korea and China. “The idea that it’s happening here makes me sick,” she added.
The ACLU urges those interested in supporting immigrant rights to attend weekly rallies. Rallies are held every Saturday at noon at the intersection of Main Street and University Street by Bradley University. They also passed out fliers informing Peoria residents of their City Council members’ phone numbers and how to contact them.