WHILE THE NATIONAL ATMOSPHERE is helping, anyone who has attempted to organize a birthday party knows it is not easy to get ten children inside the same space at the same time, let alone strong-willed adults. On Saturday – news cycle be damned! – four organization did just that. At stake are the lives of children being detained by the Trump Administration. Unite Oregon, Unete, Indivisible and Mano a Mano Family Center in Salem saw their efforts produce a crowd which joyously filled Vogel’s Plaza on Central Ave and East Main in Medford, Oregon.
Protest signs were visible as a woman with a blue and white bullhorn led the crowd in a series of spontaneous chants:
“No human is illegal!”
“Families united will never be divided!”
“Immigration built this nation!”
“Love trumps hate!”
“Stop the deportations!”
Drivers inside their cars and trucks honked their approval, waving fists as they waited for the traffic lights to change.
Twenty-three year old Alessandra de la Torre is the bilingual organizer for Unite Oregon and recent Southern Oregon University (SOU) graduate in sociology. The energetic smile she flashed so easily had to be born from her youthfulness, because her workload is tremendous. The last three days are a blur. Last Wednesday found her sending out an email promoting two volunteer opportunities to capture the “fierce urgency of this political moment” offered Thursday evening and Friday morning.
She is tasked with inspiring three outcomes.
- Congressman Greg Walden (R- OR) needs to speak out, addressing the humanitarian crisis on Texas’ southern border.
- ICE needs to be abolished in Jackson County. The federal organization is already abolished in Josephine County.
- The IP22 petition, written to repeal Oregon’s 1987 inclusivity law, needs to be defeated on November 6, 2018. That’s if it gets on the ballot. 88,000 signatures are needed for the petition to see November. De la Torre will learn if voters want said petition on the ballot next Friday, July 6. If the petition meets the Division of Elections standards, a rally opposing the petition is scheduled for Saturday, July 7th.
“I hope we don’t have to kick off this campaign,” de la Torre said. “If the standard isn’t met, we’ll be celebrating [on Saturday] and moving on to getting IDs for the undocumented.”
At approximately 11:10 am, a leader in the Racial Equity Coalition and SOU professor, Alma Rosa Alvarez asked protesters to gather near the back of the plaza for a short program.
“The other day,” Alvarez said, “I overheard a friend of mine saying, ‘I don’t recognize this country.’ We should recognize it. And, we would recognize it if we had read our history.” She began lecturing the crowd on American history, detailing how previous generations separated the families of African, Native and Mexican peoples.
Her words were interrupted by a spontaneous chant, “Free the children from the cages.”
When she could speak again, Alvarez instructed those gathered how to handle hecklers. She said hecklers were not expected, however, if hecklers did show up, a show of unity should quell them. A chant of, “Not in my country! Not in my name!,” was enough to scare them off.
Focusing on activism, she directed the crowd’s attention to two signature campaigns actively requesting involvement from registered voters.
The first signature campaign wanted to make the Jackson County Commissioner position nonpartisan. The second wanted corporations to publicly reveal whether they paid their Oregon-based taxes for not.
Alvarez implored Oregonians to get out and vote. She spent Mother’s day canvassing her neighborhood.
“I learned only 26% of people in my neighborhood vote. Coming to this plaza today is not enough. We have to do activist things,” she said.
The event ended at 1 pm. No incidents of violence occurred.
Local news channels 5 and 10 were present.
Words by Kokayi Nosakhere