Flags from the United States, Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador flew above rally-goers Saturday during a demonstration at the steps of the Long Beach Convention Center—the future site of a temporary shelter for migrant children.
Organizers said the rally was intended to pressure City Hall to guarantee transparency and humane treatment of the children who will stay at the center no later than Aug. 2.
“We want to put pressure on the mayor of Long Beach to grant us full access,” organizer Heron Carillo told reporters. Carillo said community organizations with access to health services should be allowed to maintain contact with the children until they are reunited with family members already living in the U.S.
The rally began at 9 a.m., amid the backdrop of a line of cars arriving at the COVID-19 vaccination clinic taking place simultaneously at the Convention Center’s parking garage. The crowd grew to roughly 80 people.
After two hours of speeches, a number of demonstrators marched along Pine Avenue and briefly blocked traffic on Ocean Boulevard. For a short time, the Long Beach Police Department went on tactical alert to monitor the protest.
Hundreds of unaccompanied minors found crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, potentially as young as 3 years old, are expected to be brought to the Convention Center in the coming weeks following the City Council’s decision this week to allow the federal government to lease the space.
During a council meeting Tuesday, officials said federal agencies will partner with local nonprofits and faith-based organizations to help support children during their stay. The city will also have opportunities for residents to volunteer and will soon provide more information.
Indigenous activists said they sympathized with families making the long trek from Central America to the border. Haatepah Clearbear and his brother Nyamuull said the people fleeing to the U.S. are descendants of indigenous groups in Central America.
Native elder Mazatzin Aztekayolokalli, a member of the International Council of First Nations, proposed during a speech to the crowd that community-based groups should keep constant communication with the children in the center.
“These people are refugees,” Aztekayolokalli said. “Those governments are not responsible for their people and it’s going to keep happening until we do something about it.”
The decision to hold unaccompanied migrant kids at the Convention Center comes as there’s been a significant increase in children arriving without parents at the southern border, many of them fleeing violence, extortion and poverty in Central America.
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