About 120 people gathered in Willimantic on Friday as part of a March and Rally for Undocumented Rights.
“With the inauguration of Donald Trump happening, we want to let our community know that we support undocumented immigrants and believe in protecting their rights,” a Facebook page for the rally said.
The rally was organized by Iglesia del Sagrado Corazon and Embracing the Same Dream, Windham Area Progressive Action (WAPA), CT Students for a Dream and CT Immigrants Rights Alliance.
Many participants in the rally were residents of Willimantic who expressed worry for the future of undocumented immigrants in their community.
“They are our neighbors. They’re here to stay and they do belong here,” said Dagmar Noll, a member of WAPA.
The rally comes on the heels of Windham town council’s decision to establish the town as a sanctuary city. Willimantic is located within the town of Windham.
“This resolution keeps our immigrant community safe and keeps the dangerous forces of [Trump’s] administration out,” a press release reads.
UConn’s presence at the rally included student activist Eric Cruz Lopez and English professor Christopher Vials.
“There’s always that fear of deportations, so I’m here to support the fight that’s been going on right here in Windham,” Cruz Lopez said. Cruz Lopez has spoken around campus at rallies and student government meetings about his status as an undocumented student.
Vials said opposition to undocumented immigrants draws away from issues that need more attention.
“Undocumented immigrants are not responsible for, for example, student debt. Undocumented immigrants are not responsible for low wages and declining real wages,” Vials said.
Community and support were common themes that drew people to the rally.
“Enough of this stupid, divise, anti-immigrant rhetoric,” Vials said while speaking to the crowd.
Also in attendance were State Representative Gregg Haddad (D) and Eastern Connecticut State University president Dr. Elsa Nunez.
Nunez said over 50 students at ECSU are in America under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which protects undocumented minors from being deported.
“These are smart students. They’re going to be doctors, lawyers,” Nunez said.
Trump previously said he would repeal DACA.
The rally showed support for the Spanish-speaking community by translating all speeches to Spanish as well as having Spanish and English chants during the march.
While marching, participants’ chants included “Sanctuary USA, immigrants are here to stay,” and “No papers, no fear.”
Signs read “Un pueblo, una familia. One town, one family,” “People can’t be illegal,” and “Our students are the future. Protect their rights.”
The march began on the Frog Bridge in Willimantic, through the nearby residential neighborhood, past the Willimantic Police Department and through downtown, ending at Windham Town Hall.
As supporters marched past the Willimantic Food Co-Op, customers inside cheered and smiled looking out the window.
As the march passed through the neighborhood, residents came out of their houses and gathered on front porches to watch.
Marchers carried American flags and banged on makeshift drums made from buckets while chanting.
“Say it loud and say it clear, immigrants are welcome here,” supporters chanted.
Schae Beaudoin is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.