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A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

Thousands march in GR Day Without Immigrants

Mariano Avila

Thousands marched from Garfield Park to the Calder Plaza as part of the “Day Without Immigrants” demonstration in Grand Rapids. 

It felt more like an improvised rally than a protest. Row after row made the three-mile trek to the sounds of drums.


And the usual chants.

But of course, it wasn't a rally. 

-"We are here with Carla Barbei, she's one of the organizers of the march 'A Day Without Immigrants."

-“Our communities have been terrorized by I.C.E and the police and families have been disrupted, so we saw the need in our community, you know, especially in our community, and we decided to do something about it.”

Among those marching some say their own families have been disrupted by immigration policy.

“My husband was deported. I have a family, it’s gone. My little girl, I haven’t seen her in a year and a half. She lives in Guatemala now. No kid should have to be forced to pick between a country and a parent.”

-“Can you tell me what your name is?”

-“Cindy Hicks.”

-“Where are you from, Cindy?”

-“Grand Rapids.”

-“Why did you decide to come out here then?”

-“’Cause, no family should be like mine!”

Credit Mariano Avila / WGVU
Little girl holds a sign against deportations that separate families

Sergio Cira is a prominent member of the West Side community in Grand Rapids, he live-streamed the entire event, almost four hours, not just because he was once undocumented.

“It’s an historical event for our community that needs to be documented. And it was very important for them and for us to interview people during the movement, when it’s happening, because it’s important for us to take ownership of our own history and the way we cover it.”

Around the country dozens of cities held similar, peaceful demonstrations many with thousands of participants.

Mariano Avila is WGVU's inclusion reporter. He has made a career of bringing voices from the margins to those who need to hear them. Over the course of his career, Mariano has written for major papers in English and Spanish, published in magazines, worked in broadcast, and produced short films, commercials, and nonprofit campaigns. He also briefly served at a foreign consulate, organized for international human rights efforts and has done considerable work connecting marginalized people to religious, educational, and nonprofit institutions through the power of story.
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