Government immigration policies drive people to the streets

Peaceful Assembly

Immigration-related protests

On 1st June, hundreds of people protested in cities across the country to condemn the Trump administration's practice of separating undocumented parents from their children at the U.S.-Mexican border. As part of The National Day of Action for Children, more than 100 people chanted and sang outside the Department of Justice building in Washington, DC, and dozens more rallied on the steps of the county courthouse in El Paso, Texas, which sits on the Mexican border. Other major protests were held in New York City, Miami, and Atlanta. 

On 1st May, about 15,000 people marched in downtown Los Angeles in support of labor and immigration causes and other issues as part of May Day activities. Right-wing groups also held counter-demonstrations in Seattle and Los Angeles, but there were no reports of major incidents. May Day events were held in other cities, including Seattle and New York. May Day became the International Worker’s Day, a global observance of workers' rights, after a 1886 strike by workers in Chicago who sought an eight-hour workday.

Also on 1st May, thousands of demonstrators marched through the streets of Waukesha, near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to protest plans by the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Office to participate in a program that would enforce federal immigration laws. The demonstrations, organised by Voces de la Frontera, an immigration rights group, marched to the local courthouse and called for an end to participation in the program which they denounced as anti-immigrant.

Labour rights related protests

Inspired by educators in other states, teachers in Arizona, Colorado and North Carolina ramped up their protest activities in pursuit of more money for schools and salaries. On 27th April, 50,000 people held a protest at the Arizona capitol Phoenix only to find that the state’s House and Senate adjourned the day before, one week early, to avoid the protests. In Colorado, teachers used personal time to attend a two-day protest and are advocating for a ballot initiative to raise taxes on corporations and on people earning more than $150,000 a year. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper responded to the crowd by saying, “We see you. We hear you.” On 16th May, over 15,000 people took to the streets of Raleigh, North Carolina to march to the Legislative Building, where the legislature was starting its annual work session. Protesters chanted, “We care! We vote!” and “This is What Democracy Looks Like!”

Gun control related protests

On 25th May, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shouted “USA, not NRA!” and staged “die-ins” at two Publix supermarkets in Florida to protest the chain’s support for Adam Putnam, a gubernatorial candidate aligned with the National Rifle Association. NRA supporters also showed up at one store to counter protest. In response to the protest, Publix announced it had suspended contributions to Putnam. On a related note, on June 12 die-ins were held around the country, including in Chicago, New York, Washington D.C. and near President Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. 

As previously reported in the Monitor, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was the site of a 14th February mass shooting in which 17 people were killed and another 17 were wounded. Students from the school have led a national protest against gun violence and NRA money in public elections.

Environmental issues

On 20th May, activists from Greenpeace and other groups blocked a barge from entering a Seattle facility of energy infrastructure company Kinder Morgan by locking themselves to a pier. Protesters in kayaks - also known as kayaktavists - also deployed a large banner that read “NOT THEN” with a Shell oil logo and “NOT NOW,” with Kinder Morgan’s logo. Mosquito Fleet and the Sierra Club were among the other groups that organised the rally on the water in Elliott Bay and in a city park along the coast.

Other protests

On 4th June, 20 people were arrested outside of the governor’s office in Nashville, Tennessee, as part of a protest organised by the Poor People’s Campaign, a grassroots movement that protests against economic inequality. The protesters blocked traffic and starting building a flower garden outside of the governor’s office while police stood nearby and filmed them. The arrests occurred after the protesters reportedly went inside the building and refused to leave after the office closed for the day. The following week, as part of a nationwide effort, members of the Poor People's Campaign interrupted the California state senate to call for affordable housing and other policies to address poverty. In Lexington Kentucky, about 125 people were forced to wait in the lobby or on the Capital steps after security refused to allow more than two people into the building at a time. The governor eventually met with two of the group’s leaders and accepted their petition. It was the second time a large group of peaceful protesters had their access limited at the capitol. In a letter to the Kentucky Attorney General, two state lawmakers called the actions restricting access to the capitol “arbitrary” and questioned their legality.

On 22nd May, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN was interrupted by protesters accusing her of “signing off on genocide” against the Palestinian people. “Nikki, Nikki can’t you see, you are on a killing spree!” was one of the chants protesters aimed at Nikki Haley as she spoke at a University of Houston event. The protesters left the auditorium peacefully and the Ambassador continued her remarks. Students for Justice in Palestine and other groups released a statement outlining their criticism of Haley’s conduct.

On 8th June, supporters and protesters gathered outside a bakery that has been at the center of a multi-year legal battle following the baker’s refusal to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor, the bakery’s owner, Jack Phillips, addressed both groups with supporters holding signs with messages like, “Justice for Jack” and “Love Free Speech”, while reports indicate his critics are organising a protest called “Gay Party at Bigot Bakery”. The case ended with the Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission discriminated against Phillips on the basis of his religious beliefs when it ruled against him.

Inauguration Day protests 

On 23rd May, a Superior Court judge ruled that the government withheld evidence that could have potentially cleared seven of the defendants facing charges stemming from the Inauguration Day protests. 

Expression

On 31st May, a federal court heard arguments in a case pitting a Canadian logging company against Greenpeace that, if successful, could weaken freedom of expression. In May 2016, Resolute Forest Products filed a lawsuit against Greenpeace and Stand.earth, under a U.S. racketeering law commonly used to prosecute the mafia. The lawsuit was filed in response to one of the environmental groups’ campaigns aimed at the company’s logging in the Boreal forest. Greenpeace says the lawsuit is an example of "strategic lawsuits against public participation," or SLAPPs, and is little more than an attempt to either bully it into silence or cause financial hardship.

On 22nd May, a reporter with the Associated Press (AP) was reportedly forcibly removed by security guards from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) headquarters in Washington, DC after trying to attend a meeting on water contaminants. The next day, reporters from AP, CNN and E&E were barred from the meeting. AP Executive Editor Sally Buzbee, said, 

“It is particularly distressing that any journalist trying to cover an event in the public interest would be forcibly removed.”

A Massachusetts federal judge rejected a request from three government agencies to dismiss a lawsuit filed against them challenging the constitutionality of warrantless border searches. The lawsuit centers around two journalists who had their electronic property seized without a warrant at the border in September 2017. Attorneys for the journalists say that such searches violate the First Amendment and could have a chilling effect on journalistic activities. The lawsuit names the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement as the defendants in the case.

During the same week Trump also continued his attacks against the media, calling in a tweet for news organisations to lose their credentials for their reporting activities.

On 1st May, a photojournalist with the Associated Press was struck by rubber bullets while covering demonstrations in San Juan, Puerto Rico. According to reports, Carlos Rivera Giusti identified himself several times as a member of the press but the police still rushed him and hit him in the chest. Large protests were held in cities across the island over a proposal to address the territory’s debt by cutting pensions while many residents are still dealing with the widespread destruction and devastation caused by recent hurricanes.