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Community gathers for Families Belong Together rally in Grand Forks

Recent Grand Forks Central graduate Megan Hanson (center) leads a group of protestors marching against the Trump administration's policy of separating illegal immigrant families in downtown Grand Forks on Saturday afternoon. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald1 / 5
Protestors march in a rally against the Trump administration's family separation policy for illegal immigrants along South 3rd Street in downtown Grand Forks on Saturday afternoon. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald2 / 5
Protestors gather at the top floor of the Grand Forks County Office parking ramp to rally against the separation of illegal immigrant families by the Trump administration on Saturday, June 30, 2018 in downtown Grand Forks. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald3 / 5
Protesters against the Trump administration's family spearation policy of illegal immigrants chant while displaying signs and banners on top of the Grand Forks County Office parking ramp on Saturday afternoon. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald4 / 5
Protestors gather at Pillsbury Park in downtown Grand Forks to rally against the Trump administration's family separation policy for illegal immigrants on Saturday, June 30, 2018. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald5 / 5

As thousands gathered in Washington, D.C., to protest President Donald Trump's immigration policy Saturday, others participated in "Families Belong Together" demonstrations across the nation.

Of the 750 rallies across the country, three were in North Dakota—Grand Forks, Fargo and Antler.

Maia Jackson, a recent Grand Forks Central High graduate, organized the Grand Forks event using Moveon.org, a website where users create petitions and events for "progressive public policy."

Creating the event was easy, Jackson said, adding she had "less to lose" than local adults who might've considered organizing a rally. "I know a lot of people, I'm young and I'm getting out of here," Jackson said.

Ward 3 Councilman Bret Weber, who attended the rally, said he counted anywhere from 130 to 150 attendees of all ages,"peacefully proclaiming their positions."

The crowd met at noon on the top level of the parking garage behind the Grand Forks County office, with signs and chants saying "No one is illegal on stolen land", "Where are the children?" and "No justice, no peace". From the garage, the crowd proceeded to march downtown, past a farmer's market at town square and a small wedding rehearsal behind Ely's Ivy.

As the rally marched down North 3rd Street, the man for whom the road was honorarily named "Eliot Glassheim Way" was marching with attendees toward the back, wearing a shirt he said he designed during his time as 18th district representative in the North Dakota House. The shirt read "Power Tends to Corrupt; Absolute Power Corrupts... Absolutely". Toward the bottom, it said "Elect Democrats for Balanced Government."

"The idea being that the state legislature should be more balanced between Democrats and Republicans," Glassheim added. "It applies more today than ever."

Judy Milavetz, another rally participant, said the protest was more than just standing behind a political ideology. Milavetz is a part-time instructor UND—"I teach about brain development in infants and toddlers," she said, "and how stress and trauma affect them."

For Milavetz, the family separations she has seen in the news fits with her line of work. "If you understand brain development and you understand what the risks are, you understand ... Children cannot reach their potential when there's a traumatic event that just undermines all their trust and security in the world and that it's a safe place."

Jackson marched in front, and behind her a handful of people helped carry a cloth banner saying "ABOLISH ICE."

"We don't have a large Hispanic or Latino community, compared to other places," Jackson said. For her, the rally was more about challenging a "national rhetoric," and making people "question the things [they] take for granted." "In my entire life, I risk no threat of deportation," she said. "If we all lived like we have to fight for our lives, like some people do, I think our democracy would be a lot healthier."

Emily Allen

Allen joined the Grand Forks Herald to cover local government and politics May 2018. Call her at 701-780-1102, email her at eallen@gfherald.com or follow her on Twitter, @Emily_theHerald.

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