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‘A great opportunity to show solidarity’: Refugee and immigrant rights rally set for Friday in Minneapolis 

“This is about people, about caring about people, and doing the right thing, doing the American thing,”  said Pablo Tapia, one of the event’s organizers.

photo of migrants running from tear gas at border
Last week, Tapia took in the photos and news coverage coming out of the U.S.-Mexico border — of families running from tear gas bombs dispensed by U.S. border officials in the name of all Americans.
REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Pablo Tapia has a question for anyone on the fence about showing up to Friday’s immigrant and refugee rights rally and protest in downtown Minneapolis.

“In what way do they want to honor their ancestors?” said Tapia, one of the event’s organizers. “Being silent or being outspoken? Because their ancestors, at one time, were immigrants. 

“This is a great opportunity for people to stand together — not only in solidarity with migrants all over the world, but in solidarity to denounce these globalized draconian policies that have been the reason for all of this mass migration all over the world. People should come down and join in this great opportunity to show solidarity.” 

Last week, Tapia took in the photos and news coverage coming out of the U.S.-Mexico border — of families running from tear gas bombs dispensed by U.S. border officials in the name of all Americans.

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Sitting in the Hopkins, Minnesota, auto repair shop he works in 2,000 miles from Tijuana, Tapia said he felt a mix of emotions.

“I was angry, upset, sad, but there was hope. You can never give up hope, because if you do you lose the battle,” said Tapia, 59, whose family hails from Mexico and Texas. Tapia is co-founder of Asamblea de Derechos Civiles de Minnesota, the immigrants rights organization behind “Rally: We welcome Honduran refugees! No troops at the border,” an event to be held Friday (5-6:30 p.m. at the U.S. federal courthouse in downtown Minneapolis), along with a long list of co-sponsors that includes Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAC)Immigrant Movement for Justice, Women Against Military MadnessWomen’s March MN, Students for a Democratic Society at the University of MinnesotaIfNotNow Twin Cities, and Morena Minnesota.

photo of pablo tapia
Courtesy of Pablo Tapia
Pablo Tapia: “I was angry, upset, sad, but there was hope. You can never give up hope, because if you do you lose the battle.”

“I have hope, but first it was anger — for putting kids in cages, like animals,” said Tapia. “A few generations down the road, when my grandchildren read in the history books about all this, 50 years from now, what was their grandfather doing about it? I want them to feel pride.

“People will be outraged. They will say, ‘What were they thinking? Who was fighting back at this injustice?’ My great-grandchildren will be able to tell their children that we were standing and fighting and organizing and marching and writing our legislators and talking to senators and spreading the word for justice and to stop this madness. I want to be, and I know we are, on the right side of history, for standing up and fighting.”

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Friday’s event is one of a number of refugee and immigrant rights events being organized by Minnesotans who are outraged at what’s being done in their names. Among many other things, that outrage has spawned the Stand On Every Corner movement and Minnesota Caravan Solidarity, members of which should be out in force Friday, creating awareness and pushing for solutions. 

“We want to attract attention to this community, and to let people know to be open-minded to immigrants,” said Tapia. “We should help each other.”

Friday’s event is specifically focusing on supporting the vilified “caravan” made up of Honduran families fleeing from the chaos and violence in their country.

“We believe these are refugees, not just migrants looking for better conditions and somewhere else. They are seeking asylum in the United States because that’s the only place that they know of that they could possibly find a way to make their life better,” said Sherilyn Young, of Minnesota Hands Off Honduras, one of the event’s co-sponsors. 

Courtesy of Brad Sigal
Minnesota Hands Off Honduras spokeswoman Sherilyn Young (far left, holding Honduran flag): “[People should show up at Friday’s rally] to demand action from the federal government.”

“More military at the border is ridiculous and unnecessary, and a refugee situation as it is calls for an international response, including the United States and Mexico together. The rhetoric that you hear from the president and the federal government is ‘keep the refugees out in any way that you can.’ And our experience in Minnesota as a state, as I understand it, immigrants can revitalize our small towns, they provide a needed workforce, and we believe that’s a good part of society, and people should come (Friday) to demand action from our federal government.” 

Last summer, thousands marched through the streets of the Twin Cities and across the country opposing family separations and other conditions at the border.  Since then, Trump used the caravan to fan his base’s pre-election fears, and tear gas has been used on families. But Tapia said that the new lows in American military and government practices don’t solely account for the budding urgency and timeliness surrounding Friday’s event. More than anything, he attributes interest to the good in humanity rising up, and in human beings’ natural instinct for looking out for the poorest among us.

“There’s always been an urgency, but I think it has more to do with people’s values, and that we’re not going to stand by idle and let the ones with the microphone direct that conversation,” he said. “This is why we’re doing this, and there’s power in numbers.

“I think more people are waking up to joining in renouncing injustices. I’m one of the few people who started the March For Immigration back in the early ‘90s here in Minnesota, and we were barely able to put together three or four hundred people in the whole Twin Cities. And back then, people used to criticize; ‘nobody wants to know, nobody cares about immigrants,’ but now people are waking up. This is about people, about caring about people, and doing the right thing, doing the American thing. Which is let others to true happiness and find the right path to freedom.”

The rally will start at 5 p.m. Friday, on the corner of 4th Street and 4th Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. Organizers encourage everyone to dress warmly and to learn the chant, “Say it loud! Say it clear! Immigrants are welcome here!”