Hundreds of marchers showed up in Modesto to prove they really do care about immigrants and implore others to as well on Saturday.
Signs and sunhats filled downtown as around 800 marchers took to the streets to protest the "zero tolerance" immigration policies of the Trump administration. The event was among more than 700 that took place nationally Saturday as part of the Families Belong Together March.
The Modesto march started at Five Points at McHenry Avenue and J Street, as the crowd overflowed the grassy median next to the bronze Graffiti statue, before heading seven blocks down J Street to Tenth Street Place. Protesters old and young were among the crowd, several with homemade signs. Many referenced President Donald Trump's controversial policy of separating parents and children at the border and others alluded to the jacket First Lady Melania Trump wore while traveling to visit migrant youth earlier this month which read, "I really don't care, do u?"
Chanting "This is what democracy looks like, this is what communities look like, this is what families look like, this is what children look like," and other rallying cries, the marchers braved temperatures that were set to peak around 104 degrees.
"What we're seeing in the paper and everything that's happening it's just crazy," said Modesto resident Ed Tabacco, 71, who came to the march with his wife, Karen. "It is not what our country stands for."
Since May when Trump enacted his zero tolerance policy, more than 2,342 children were separated from their parents after crossing the Southern U.S. border, according to the Department of Homeland Security. After widespread public outcry, Trump signed an executive order which reversed his family separation policy and instead decreed that families could be detained together for an indefinite amount of time.
Several Central Valley progressive organizations helped to put together the march, and with bullhorns and water bottles took to the streets for the peaceful protest. The event culminated with a rally at Tenth Street Plaza that included speakers representing immigrant organizations and other advocacy groups.
Democratic challenger for Congress Josh Harder, who is running against Rep. Jeff Denham, spoke and urged the crowd to get involved and vote in the midterm elections. Meanwhile, Denham (R-Turlock) appeared on national cable news to talk about his failed immigration bill, which was voted down by fellow Republicans last week.
Marjorie Sturdy, one of the leaders of the Modesto Progressive Democrats club, said she was heartened by the turnout and passion in the crowd.
"People are more determined and more dedicated than ever," Sturdy said. "We feel really positive about the upswing in participation from the community."
Twenty-seven-year-old Modesto resident Jessica Perez came with her two children, ages 4 and 2. She said she wanted to bring them because children their same age, and younger, are being separated from their families at the border.
"I wanted them to witness this protest and make sure they grow up in an engaged community," she said. "We've come out to protest something pretty horrible. I put themselves in my shoes and I don't know what I'd do. Not knowing how and where my children were? I'd just cry."