Day Without Immigrants protests come to Columbus
COLUMBUS (WSYX/WTTE) —
Thousands of protesters hit the streets across the country to rally in support of immigrants. Several hundred people brought the "Day Without Immigrants" movement to Columbus Thursday afternoon.
Many of the protesters held signs and chanted about how they felt President Donald Trump mischaracterized them by calling Mexicans drug dealers and rapists.
"We are not criminals," said Norma Lopez, one of the protesters. "They're out to portray us as bad people, people who are here to take things. We're not that. We are families that came from other countries in search of a better life."
The group said prayers both in English and Spanish. They held up American flags and also the flags of many Latin American countries.
Some of the people there were legal immigrants with US citizenship. Others were undocumented.
"People say, 'go back to Mexico'," said Jesus Antonio, an undocumented immigrant who came from Mexico when he was 14. "You know what? I don't want to go back there. That's what I came here for because this place is better."
Many businesses closed for the day in solidarity.
"When people come to the United States from Central American and South American countries, it's not because they were comfortable over there and they're better here," said Virginia Nunes Gutierrez who kept Bottoms Up Coffee open but donated part of its profits to immigration organizations. "We're lacking in basic human needs."
Some people taking part in the "Day Without Immigrants" said they aren't criminals. They said they came to the US to get away from crime and poverty.
"You do have a voice," said Andrew Martinez who organized the event. "It doesn't matter what your immigrant status is. It doesn't matter what nationality you are. It doesn't matter what your sexual orientation is, you have a voice. You should speak up. It's time to come out of the shadows."
Some business owners who closed their doors Thursday said there was some backlash for taking part in the protest but they said they wanted to show immigrants aren't just consumers, they're employers as well.
Martinez said some undocumented immigrants didn't want to take part in the rally because they were afraid immigration officials would be there.
He said similar events like this one may be planned in the coming months.