Crowds of activists and protesters marched through downtown Milwaukee on Monday, as part of a massive "Day Without Latinos" rally against efforts by the Trump administration and local officials to target marginalized Latinx communities.
Organized by the Wisconsin-based advocacy group Voces de la Frontera, Monday's rally was prompted by a move by controversial Milwaukee sheriff David Clarke to "enroll his department in the federal 287g program," as the group explained in a press release. By doing so, they continued, Clarke would be "deputizing his sheriffs to act as ICE agents."
Speaking with WITI, Voces representatives said they expected participation not only from Milwaukee residents, but from supporters from as many as 15 other communities around the state. On Twitter, the group claimed that over 150 area businesses had closed for the event, with thousands marching in the streets.
For Voces de la Frontera executive director Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Monday's action is larger than simply a rally to call attention to Trump's ongoing immigration crackdown.
"It's a very specific call to action,” Neuman Ortiz explained to the Capital Times. “It is not just a march, it is a general community-wide strike and it is something we’ve used at critical moments when we feel there’s a real danger.
Monday's march is the second "Day without Latinos" event in Wisconsin. In February 2016, a similar protest in Madison saw an estimated 20,000 people rally at the state capital to speak out against a series of bills targeting the Latinx community.
This years event, however, has taken on an added sense of urgency, given President Trump's ongoing immigration crackdown, which saw some 600 people across the country arrested by ICE agents over the past week.
"My husband was deported," Jennifer Estrada, a Milwaukee-area community leader, explained to Voces. "I know what that feels like and the impact it had on my children. "People should not be afraid of law enforcement. They should not live under the threat of their families being torn apart."
On Facebook, Clarke responded to the announced march with a short statement:
"Please accept my regrets," Clarke wrote. "I will be working with agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement helping them identify criminal illegal aliens and therefore cannot attend your rally being held for me."