PORT ANGELES — More than 675 protesters gathered near the U.S. Border Patrol station in Port Angeles on Saturday to rally against federal immigration policies.
Similar demonstrations were taking place across the country.
The “Families Belong Together” rallies were organized to protest President Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy and the detention of children and families, according to The Washington Post.
Port Angeles rally organizer Judith Broadhurst said hand clickers were used to count 679 who attended the two-hour demonstration on both sides of East First and South Penn streets despite periods of rain.
It was the largest political rally in Port Angeles in recent memory.
“It’s one of the largest things I’ve seen since the protest against the Vietnam War,” Broadhurst said as the demonstration was breaking up at 1 p.m.
Broadhurst added that the rally was not about party affiliation.
“It’s about the kids and what’s happening in our country,” Broadhurst said.
Passing motorists honked horns in support of protesters holding signs with slogans like “Keep Families Together,” “Love Trumps Hate” and “We Care.”
Ankur Shah of Sequim stood on the crowded sidewalk on the south side of First Street holding his 13-month-old daughter, Jasmine.
“I probably wouldn’t have been here two years ago, but I had a baby last year and I can really relate to what it’s like to have a baby and want to keep the family together,” Shah said. “It’s something I think we can all relate to.
“I’m just shocked that our country’s gotten to the point where we’re separating children from their parents,” Shah added.
“For me, it’s more than a political thing.”
Jim Krzyzewski of Port Ludlow said he was “very troubled” by what has been occurring in the country.
“Trump is motivating through fear and being divisive,” Krzyzewski said, “and I don’t recognize the country that I grew up in.”
Gary Larson of Port Townsend stood with others on the southeast corner of First and Penn streets holding a sign that read “Crush ICE!,” a reference to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“I’m just overjoyed by the number of people who are out trying to send this message to the decision makers that we care, we really care, about people on both sides of the border,” Larson said.
Joe Bridge and Ashley Kramer of Sequim played a drum and acoustic guitar while singing Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” and other tunes on the grassy hill below the Border Patrol facility at 110 S. Penn St., the headquarters for Border Patrol on the North Olympic Peninsula.
“The current actions of our government do not represent the fundamental philosophies that America is founded on, nor the will of the people, with a capital P, that this is not America,” Kramer said.
“I think investing in peace and stopping climate change would be a better way of helping people rather than throwing (immigrants) in prison for trying to get away from danger and abject poverty.”
Broadhurst said the vast majority of the rally-goers were from North Olympic Peninsula communities.
“We were expecting around 400,” she said.
Port Angeles Police Chief Brian Smith attended the rally with two other officers to maintain traffic safety and pedestrian safety.
“So far we’ve been successful,” Smith said near the end of the demonstration.
“Things are going really well from our perspective.”
Organizers worked with police before the event and did a “great job” of making sure that people stayed behind the curbs, Smith said.
“I think everyone is very satisfied all around,” Smith said.
“I’ve lost count of how many people have told us ‘Thank you.’ That’s just nice to see.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].