Thousands march in Day Without Immigrants demonstration

Posted at 6:34 PM, Feb 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-16 22:15:06-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich-- Thousands of people marched through downtown Grand Rapids Thursday evening as part of the nationwide Day Without Immigrants demonstration.

It comes after a number of businesses closed for the day. In fact, Grand Rapids Public Schools was forced to use a snow day on Thursday due to so many students being absent.

The idea behind the demonstrations is to show what America would look like without the contribution of immigrants.

Those who marched on Thursday walked almost three miles from La Casa de La Cobija off Division Avenue towards the entrance to U.S. 131 on 28th Street and back. Their message was to demand respect and safety for immigrants in the United States and to show the impact of closing down immigrant-operated businesses in the United States.

Thursday's march in Grand Rapids was personal for Reidys Bandera, a Cuban immigrant brought to the United States when he was 13 years old.

"I just hate to see families torn apart," said Bandera. "I'm not good with that idea. How can you care about your family, but have disregard for somebody else's family?"

Bandera was one of thousands of people marching on Thursday for the nationwide Day Without Immigrants movement.

"All of these people are here to make a difference and to be heard peacefully," said Bandera. "They just want to be heard and they want to stress to President Trump that we are human beings."

Other marchers, like Jose Frausto, who is a soldier in the Army National Guard, is afraid for his undocumented father.

"Please don't make me regret signing a contract to serve this country because I don't want to be separated from my family," said Frausto.

The crowd chanted messages of hope and unity while carrying signs and waving flags.

"We are all human beings," said Bandera. "The moment that we start realizing that we are human, that's when we're going to make a change and make a big impact."

"I think it's wonderful," said Sarah Dawson, who watched the march as it passed by. "They are standing up for what they believe in and this country was based on immigrants. This country was built from immigrants. It's a beautiful thing and I'm really happy for them."

"People like us do matter, we do make a difference in this country," said Daniel Rivera, a Ferris State student and member of the Hispanic Student Organization. "Regardless of what anyone thinks, we do matter and when we come together as one everything is alright."

The messages were ringing out from people young and old, like eight year old Anarosa.

"I want Donald Trump to make a difference," said Anarosa Villagomez. "I want the Mexicans and everyone here."

Grand Rapids and Wyoming Police along with Michigan State Police ended up clearing the roads since the march blocked two lanes of traffic for a while. Those who marched on Thursday say this action is just the beginning of an escalation to a massive strike and boycott across the country on May 1.

Thursday's demonstrations come following President Trump's pledge to increase deportations of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, build a wall along the Mexican border and ban people from certain Muslim-majority countries from coming to the United States.

The protests came on the same day that President Trump held a news conference discussing a number of topics including "Fake News," U.S. relations with Russia as well as plans to unveil a new Executive Order next week which will likely replace the last order on immigration that's been held up by federal courts.