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Pittsfield Protest Calls For Immigration Reform

Over the weekend, hundreds gathered in Pittsfield, Massachusetts to join nationwide demonstrations against the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

By noon Saturday, Park Square in downtown Pittsfield was teeming with more than 300 sign-wielding protestors. Images of children, separated from their families and caged in concrete-floored facilities, inspired the national day of protest.

“We couldn’t not come," said Lucy Bruce of Pittsfield. She came with her husband and their son. “There are so many things that Trump has done that are completely atrocious, but this one is a new level of bad.”

Her sign said “Compassion First.”

“It’s hard to understand how other humans cannot have any compassion for people that are in need and people that are looking for a better life and have gone through hell to get here, and once they crossed the border, they were subjected to a whole ‘nother level of hell,” Bruce told WAMC.

Speakers included Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer and fellow Democrat Congressman Richard Neal, as well as a Berkshire County resident who shared her experience as an immigrant, and a doctor describing the lasting impact of childhood trauma on migrants. The event was sponsored by the 4 Freedoms Coalition, a group that formed in December 2016 to celebrate FDR’s confirmation of core American values in his 1941 State of the Union.

“Freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom of speech, and freedom of worship," said Colin Ovitsky, an organizer for the 4 Freedoms Coalition. “When the call came down [from] the national level to organize a day of action and protest around the country, our organizing committee decided to mobilize and put this together here in Pittsfield.”

Co-sponsors included the Berkshire County Branch of the NAACP, the Berkshire Immigrant Center, and the Berkshire Brigades — the county’s Democratic Party wing.

Lyla Rose, 8, of Lee explained described her sign.

“Lady Liberty firing Donald Trump because it’s not OK to just take away kids that belong to their parents.”

Nearby, two young boys shared a chant of their own devising for passing cars: “No cages, just love!”

Tarren Wallace is from Easton, Massachusetts.

“I just want families to stay together, and Trump can’t just take them apart," said Warren. "He has to go through a process to do that. So he can’t just lock children up in cages, so they need love, by their families and parents.”

Wallace said the images of kids his age in detention centers deeply affected him.

“I want to break them out of the cages and bring them back to their families,” he told WAMC.

Quinton Hayes, of Pittsfield, was his co-author on the “No Cages, Just Love” chant.

“Keep the families together!” said Hayes.

Judith Summers, of Williamstown, had a sign with a blunt question for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement: “Does ICE breastfeed?”

To her, the needs of the youngest detainees were paramount — and her anger focused.

“I’m going to go into four-letter words if you’re not careful," laughed Summers. "I’m sick of this blankety-blank government, that’s why. The sooner — they should be in the cages. I would like nothing better than to see Trump incarcerated in chicken wire for a few weeks in blazing sun.”

For his part, President Trump signed an order halting the family separations, but the administration — after inaccurately denying it had a family separation policy — called the move a “temporary reprieve.”   

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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