Williamsburg protesters demonstrate against immigration policies

npetersen@dailypress.com

On Saturday morning, at the intersection in front of the Williamsburg-James City County Courthouse, hundreds of cars honked their horns, showing support for the demonstration on the sidewalks nearby.

Nearly 200 people gathered around 10 a.m. to protest the separation of migrant children from their families on the southern border. They carried homemade signs and bottles of water, and they clapped for every honking car.

Williamsburg-James City County Indivisible, a local organization focused on resisting policy from the Trump administration, staged the demonstration.

The group is one of the thousands of local branches in the national Indivisible movement, founded after the 2016 presidential election.

Indivisible seeks to resist the president’s agenda through grass-roots organization and advocacy.

Nine local residents founded the Williamsburg-James City County branch in early 2017. At their first meeting two weeks later, nearly 100 people attended.

The organization meets every month and regularly stages demonstrations and protest marches. On Saturday, they coordinated with other resistance groups staging full-scale marches in Norfolk and Newport News.

Founding member Heather Meaney-Allen said that she admired them, but for her, Saturday was too hot for a march.

Dressed in a handmaid costume in reference to Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Meaney-Allen sweated through a red cape and white bonnet.

Throughout the protest, she played Pink Floyd’s album, “The Wall.”

Marge Oneill, one of the organization’s first members, was dressed in the same costume.

Oneill said she’s never been a political activist, but as a social worker for 31 years, she saw many children separated from their families. She wanted to do something active.

“This is a call to arms,” she said. “A call to loving arms.”

While many people passing by showed support, other reactions were negative.

Amidst the clapping and honking, some people leaned out their windows and yelled obscenities.

One passing driver shouted “Build a wall, build a wall, build a wall.”

Two Williamsburg police officers watched nearby, in case of any problems.

Meaney-Allen said that she expects angry reactions at this point. The amount of support on Saturday surprised her.

One person stopped by and handed out a trunkload of Popsicles.

On the sidewalk, crouching under a giant piece of reflective wrapping, Julia Allen said she was showing what life is like for children separated from their families in immigration facilities.

“This is what their being given,” Allen said, shaking her foil.

Heather Kinser attended the protest with her two children. She said at a demonstration in Washington, D.C., last week, she was arrested — and is willing to be arrested again.

“It’s up to me,” she said.

On her arm, Kinser had written the name “Savita,” after an Indian woman who died after being denied an abortion in Ireland. She writes the name on her arm at every protest.

Herb Jones, who plans to announce his candidacy for the 1st Senate District in Virginia later this month, was also in the crowd.

“This is an American issue,” Jones said. “What (the country’s) doing is just wrong.”

Austen Petersen and Kimberly Richards-Thomas, members of the Williamsburg Unitarian Universalists, also protested.

They said it was their moral duty.

Two days later, civil-rights activist John Whitley and a group of other citizens also protested against the separation of families at their weekly Moral Monday demonstration on Duke of Gloucester Street.

Whitley has come every Monday from 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. for five years. On Mondays, he protests instead of eating lunch.

The group around him stood by Confusion Corner, carrying similar signs and asking for honks from passing cars.

Whitley said the car horns connect the demonstrators and pedestrians with an impressive, unmistakable sign.

“Your silence will not protect you,” Whitley said, quoting writer Audre Lorde. “I have no other option (to protesting), no other alternative. This is my existential meaning.”

Near the end of Saturday’s demonstration, protesters slowly joined in a chant:

“Love trumps hate, Love trumps hate, Love trumps hate.”

Of course, they had to yell — you could barely hear with all the honking.

Petersen can be reached by phone at 757-345-8812 or by email at npetersen@dailypress.com.

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