Why I march: Protesters explain why they joined immigration rallies

(CNN) — Crowds of people demonstrated in cities across the United States on Saturday to protest the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which resulted in thousands of children being separated from their parents.

While protest organizers had clear demands, including reuniting separated families and an end to family detentions, the demonstrators themselves were motivated to attend for their own personal reasons.

Some are immigrants themselves or were raised in immigrant households. Others said they feel the plight of separated children when they look at their own children’s faces.

Here’s why some felt compelled to march:

To highlight the importance of family bonds

Stephanie Gruppo, 55, and daughter Kylie, 22, from the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania, said they attended a rally together in Washington to highlight the importance of family bonds. The women wore T-shirts that read “mother” and “daughter,” as well as “Families belong together.” Kylie said she believes families should not be separated or housed in detention centers that resemble “creepy tent cities” or “concentration” camps.

To honor Christian teachings

The Rev. Elizabeth Grasham, 34, attended a rally in Houston, where she serves as pastor of Heights Christian Church. She said she felt obliged by her faith to participate. “I’m protesting family separations as an evil manifestation of a historical disregard for people and communities of color,” she said. “It’s deeply anti-Christian and absolutely anti-Christ.” Grasham carried a sign calling for the abolition of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

To show immigrants are not criminals

Elaine Alvarez, 37, said she joined family members at a rally at Foley Square in New York to break stereotypes about immigrants being criminals. Alvarez, who is Cuban-American, said: “We are protesting today because like our family, immigrants who come here seeking asylum are not criminals. They are mothers, fathers, children, human beings, fleeing unimaginable danger with nothing but courage to sustain them. I’m here to fight to keep the door opened for them so that they might find refuge, too.”

To show solidarity with other immigrants

Akossiwa Lawrence, 36, and daughter Delilah, 2, attended a rally in Washington to show solidarity with other immigrants. The Maryland teacher said she sees her family in the faces of asylum seekers who are currently in the news. “It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “That could have very easily been me and my mom.” Lawrence says she was 6 when she came to the United States from Liberia. Her family sought asylum and eventually, she said, they became US citizens.

To advocate for refugee rights

Erin Vong, 26, of the San Francisco Bay Area attended a rally in Washington with her refugee mother to advocate for other refugees. “I’m the daughter of refugees and an educator who works with immigrant communities,” said Vong. “My mom and I are protesting because we know firsthand the difficulties families face when escaping hostile environments — usually ones the US played a role in creating.”

To educate the next generation

Jamie Cammack traveled with her children, Genevieve and Neve, to Washington from Fredericksburg, Virginia. She said she’s been talking about family separations with her children and they now ask to pray for the separated kids at bedtime. “We pray for those separated, those scared, we talk about hoping they get back together with their families fast,” Commack said.

To silently bear witness

Some protesters said they were so aghast by Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy that they couldn’t explain exactly how they felt. Michelle Gunderson, a Chicago public school teacher, attended a rally in West Palm Beach, Florida, where she carried a placard that read: “Blank sign. There are no words.”

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