ROCK ISLAND -- A group of about 30 gathered Friday in front of vacant Rock Island detention center to demonstrate their support of Central American migrant caravan members seeking asylum at the U.S. Border, and protesting a recent tear-gassing incident there.
The 4 p.m. gathering at Federal Courthouse offices at 211 19th St., just outside Suite 4D, in Rock Island, was reported as being a peaceful, nonviolent demonstration by a group of Immigrant Rights organizations and Quad-Cities congregations, who were "outraged" by the reported tear-gassing incident Sunday by U.S. Border Patrols.
Participants Friday called for local Immigration and Customs Enforcement directors to forward a letter to top ICE leaders and Department of Homeland Security officials in Washington D.C., calling on them to refrain from detaining asylum seekers.
They also demanded a meeting will be held within 30 days to discuss the issue.
Similar letters were sent to U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley, Joni Ernst, Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, as well as U.S. Reps. Dave Loebsack and Cheri Bustos, asking for a stand against tear-gassing and human rights violations.
“This is a simple case of our current administration committing gross acts of violence, a clear cut example of human rights abuses," Quad-Cities Interfaith organizer Aaron Wagner. "We must stand for the asylum seekers, and we must continue to advocate for a more humane U.S. policy around refugee and asylum requests.”
The 30-member crowd chanted phrases such as "No More ICE Raids" "No Hate, No Fear, Asylum Seekers Welcome Here" and "We Are Better."
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Participants carried "One Human Family" signs and a collection of homemade banners, featuring various messages professing human rights.
An unidentified protester of the protest got out of a car to voice complaints, but left before he could be interviewed by media members attending the event.
Speakers included QC Sanctuary Coalition leader John Dunsheath, who said the events reminded him of what his Irish ancestors must have felt like when they emigrated to America.
"Unless you're of Native American stock, your family immigrated to this country," Dunsheath said. "We need to offer immigrants the same chance, and treat them as humanely as possible and with compassion and empathy,
Unitarian Universalist Church colleague Julie Ross attended the event to "stand in solidarity" with refugee seekers.
Her Jewish ancestors were largely of Syrian Christian descent and emigrated to America because they were largely oppressed in their home countries, Ross said.
She hopes "something good will come out of all this," and paraphrased Scripture saying "I was a stranger and you welcomed me."
Interfaith organizer Aaron Wagner told participants he had tried calling the courthouse, but reached a voicemail message telling him the offices were closed.
Learn more about the group's efforts at qcinterfaith.org.