Plattsburgh Joins Nationwide Close The Camps Protests

Jul 3, 2019

At noon on Tuesday, people came out in cities across the country and rallied near congressional representatives’ offices for a unified Close The Camps protest.  In Burlington, Vermont people thronged to Church Street to march to the offices of Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders.  Across Lake Champlain, people gathered at the Plattsburgh Government Center lawn.  WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley was there.

"When immigrant rights are under attack what do we do? Unite, fight back!"
Nearly 70 people took time out of their day to stand on the lawn of the government center to hold signs, chant and express concerns about federal detention camps near the southern border.

One of the organizers is an older woman, the other much younger. They reflected the demographics of the people holding signs and expressing their outrage over the conditions in which migrants are being held.
Organizer Natalie Casey-Sanger said she has heard a lot of people talking about how concerned they are about the camps.  “People really care. You know it seems like an issue that might not effect Plattsburgh directly but it is a human rights issue that we’re all responsible for making sure that we address.”

Co-organizer Michelle Tolosky agreed.  “We need to take a look at what we’re doing. It’s wrong to jail children period. There’s no moral reason to do it. These children are not

Tolosky then picked up a megaphone. “Can you hear me okay in the back? We are here today to say no more. Close the camps. This is un-American.”

Protesters stepped up to the megaphone to read comments from children filed in the 9th Circuit Court Flores v. Barr case request for Temporary Restraining Order.
 “We are in a metal cage with 20 other teenagers with babies and young children. We have one mat we need to share with each other. It is very cold. We each got a mylar blanket but it is not enough to warm up. The lights are on all of the time.  Age 16 female.”
“The immigration agent separated me from my father right away. I was very frightened and scared. I cried. Age 5 male.”
“They told us that we could only have one layer of clothing and they threw away the rest of our clothes in the garbage. Age 16 male.”

Rabbi David Kominsky of Temple Beth Israel in Plattsburgh said while some Jews feel linking the Holocaust with any other circumstance is unacceptable, he says most see the connection and feel the need to speak out.  “I am a rabbi. I have taught the Holocaust and studied the Holocaust for over 30 years. These are concentration camps. On American soil we are imprisoning…”
Protester: “Children.”
Kominsky: “…children and adults without taking proper care of them.
Protesters: “Shame, shame, shame.”
Kominsky: “Our government has chosen to act in ways that are reminiscent of Nazi Germany.”

Following the rabbi’s comments, Jim Stafford stepped up to shake his hand.  “This is such a sad sad commentary  on our country and on our humanity. It’s just an inhumane thing. If I treated dogs or puppies like these children are being treated I’d be put in jail. Animals of any kind I’d be put in jail. The only image that sticks in my mind is the Statue of Liberty crying.”

The protesters attempted to deliver a letter to Congresswoman Elise Stefanik at her office in the Government Center, asking her to support closing the camps and stop funding family detention and deportation. The group also wanted the 21st district Republican to visit the detention centers during her Independence Day recess.