Hundreds protest zero-tolerance policy in front of ICE facility in Battle Creek

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — Joanne Ivey was protesting when she heard that the president may sign an executive order eliminating the separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border. Ivey said she was horrified by what she’d seen on TV, children being taken from their parents. So the news gave her hope.

“The agony that you hear in these children’s voices being separated from their families and knowing they may never ever connect with their parents again,” she said during the protest. “Putting them in a room with toys and crayons, this doesn’t solve anything.”

Ivey was among the hundreds of people who protested Wednesday afternoon in front of the Calhoun County jail, which is home to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility. According to the Sheriff’s Office, the facility only houses detainees from the surrounding states, not the southern border. Many protestors said their main message was against the national policy.

“It’s not just enough to say I ‘oh I disapprove of this policy’,” Ivey said. “Everyone of us have to be involved. What would you do? What are you going to do to solve this?”

Protestors said they're praying for the policy to end. In the meantime, they stood along Michigan Avenue, chanting and holding up signs as vehicles honked when they drove by. Ivey said that protest -- organized by Justice for Our Neighbors of West Michigan -- all started with just three people. However when word go out, many more showed up.

“Pretty much everyone I know is just very kind of outraged,” said Rev. Tom Ryberg, associate pastor of 1st Congregational Church of Battle Creek. “So it does not surprise me to see a lot of people coming out about this. I think this is probably a fraction actually.”

Children attended as well. Some even created their own signs. Rachel Marshprelasnik said she and yer young children watched the news and cried. So they drew up signs with a handful of stick-figure pictures, some showing a families with kids and others not.

“That’s her mommy, her baby got taken, so she’s all alone,” Marshprelasnik said pointing to one picture and then moving to the next. “That is the baby. There’s no mommy.”

A few hours after the protest ended, the president signed an executive order ending the process of separating families. Ivey’s hope, like many at the protest, came true.

“I certainly hope that we find away to get families back together,” said Rev. Ryberg.

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