Local estimates range from 1,000 to 5,000 for the End Family Detention March. Photo by Clare Bratten

From Staff Reports

NASHVILLE, TN — Separating children from parents is intolerable for many Americans who protested Donald Trump’s immigration policies Saturday.

“We are fighting to end the separation, detention and torture of families, children and human beings,” Nashville Community Defense volunteer Cathy Carrillo said on the national day of action against Trump’s “unconstitutional immigration policy.”

However, Trump’s recent order changing the separation policy was noted.

“Donald Trump did the first steps in ending the family separation,” said Rae McBee of Nashville. “But we … want to be able to reunite these families and … end the abuse…” 

Lynn Johnson-McBee: “Immigrants are what this country is all about… I can’t imagine that we would ever be in the position of having to go to another country because something happened to our country…”

From left, Lynn Johnson-McBee, Jordyn Johnson, Rae McBee, Zayden Johson, Darric Johnson and Marleigh Johnson hold protest signs. Photo by Clare Bratten

Demonstrations in many other cities had a combined participation estimated by the Associated Press at “hundreds of thousands.” Nashville’s crowd, ranging from 1,000 to several thousand, marched from Fannie Mae Dees Park to Belmont University.

Protestors at Nashville’s “End Family Detention March” included state Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, a candidate for governor, who said, “It’s … encouraging to see so many Tennesseans stand up for what is morally right.”

Nashville Peace and Justice Center Board member Susan Shann said, “We’re protesting at Belmont because of … cruel practices” including family detention and separation at the Mexican border.

Demonstrators protested Damon Heninger, CEO of Nashville-based CoreCivic which manages  government prisons. Heninger’s on Belmont’s board of trust. “That’s the connection to Nashville. That’s why were at Belmont,” said retired woodworker Dan Andrew.

CoreCivic is contracted to hold immigrants crossing the Mexican border.

“Belmont is a revered and well-respected institution in our community,” volunteer organizer Emily Tseffos said. That “does not negate the fact that… [CoreCivic] is doing damage to … immigrant families.”

CoreCivic holds children together with parents, according to CoreCivic as quoted in a Gannett report.

Tseffos said Belmont should remove Heninger from its board.

Belmont “celebrates diversity [and] empowering men and women based on their integrity, humility, service and compassion,” Tseffos said. Heninger “is not a friend of Nashville. He is not … a friend of immigrants … We should not be celebrating him by placing him in a position of power…

“CoreCivic’s stock has gone up 3 percent since the zero tolerance policy was initiated” by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Heninger “is profiting off of these people’s suffering. This is … something that is right here in our backyard. He plays here, he sleeps here…

“Core Civic has also given money to politicians … Marsha Blackburn, Diane Black, Bob Corker,” Tseffos said, “so our politicians are in bed with this … [It’s where] corruption comes in because you have … people who are elected to represent us but are being paid by these people.”

Jordyn Johnson said, “Me and Zayden have a friend, Camilla, and she speaks Mexican and we would cry if Donald Trump jails her.”

Groups organizing Nashville’s march included the ACLU, Women’s March and Democratic Socialists of America.

Clare Bratten and Clint Confehr collaborated for this story.