Immigration demonstration set at the courthouse

Participants to speak against federal immigration policies

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Some Marshalltown residents are planning on speaking against federal immigration policy Saturday at the Marshall County Courthouse, including Grant Sincox, left, shown here protesting SF 481 at the Iowa Capitol in March. Organizers of Saturday’s demonstration said it will take a peaceful, respectful and vigil-like tone.

Despite questions about two groups using the Marshall County Courthouse grounds at the same time, the Marshall County Board of Supervisors voted to allow a peaceful demonstration Saturday.

The demonstration, dubbed “Families Belong Together — Marshalltown Area Vigil,” was approved to take place noon to 1 p.m. that day on the courthouse grounds. Also approved by the supervisors earlier in June was the Iowa 99 County Bible Reading Marathon set for 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. the same day.

The mix-up came when “Families” event leaders requested use of the space despite it already having been approved for the Bible reading event. The supervisors acknowledged that the Bible event had not been put on the board calendar prior to the demonstrators’ request.

“We should have caught it quicker,” said board Chairman Bill Patten.

The goal of the vigil event is to show opposition to the President Donald Trump administration’s policies on handling undocumented immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border.

After Tuesday’s vote, the demonstrators will be on the south side of the courthouse grounds and the Bible readers will be on the north side.

“We’re going to do our best to respect their event and let our participants know that this is a separate event that welcomes the community to read the Bible,” said demonstration organizer and Marshalltown resident Steve Adelmund. “We are more than happy to stay on the south side of the lawn and keep it as respectful as possible.”

Board Vice Chairman Dave Thompson emphasized the demonstration should be peaceful in nature and not intrusive to the other event taking place Saturday.

“We welcome it, we believe very strongly in freedom of speech and peaceable assembly,” he said.

The demonstration

After the decision at Tuesday’s supervisors meeting, the leaders of the Families Belong Together event have branded the gathering as a vigil. It had originally been called a protest.

“It’s as much about holding people accountable as it is about making sure that these kids are reunited,” Adelmund said.

He said he came to care about the issue when he heard about children and parents being separated at the border after celebrating Father’s Day with his two children. Adelmund said that inspired him to “do something about it.”

Earlier this month, Trump reversed his administration’s policy of separating children from their parents who were taken into federal custody at the border. More than 2,000 children were still separated from their families earlier this week, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officials.

Saturday’s vigil at the courthouse will feature speakers, poem readings and more. It is part of a nationwide movement taking place on the same day and is sponsored by MoveOn.org.

“It definitely will be a family event,” said Joa LaVille of Immigrant Allies of Marshalltown. That group partnered with Adelmund to bring the demonstration to the city.

According to MoveOn.org, a total of 11 such events will take place across Iowa Saturday. Adelmund said Marshalltown’s will be unique because of it’s vigil-style demonstration, unlike a more traditional protest environment.

“I don’t predict that it will get out of control, but if it does we’re willing to step in and if we have to ask someone to leave, we will certainly do that,” he said.

Adelmund said demonstrators who want a louder environment are welcome to join the movement in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls and other cities the same day.

Some Marshalltown residents said they will be attending the vigil.

“I came here in 1982 — my mother, brother and sister were killed at the market by soldiers and I was a survivor of that situation,” said Marshalltown resident and Guatemalan immigrant Francie Worner. “I was 4 years old.”

The kind of instability she fled as a child still plagues her native country, she said. After being adopted and raised in Clear Lake, Worner said she moved to Marshalltown to use her bilingual skills to help people.

She said in a recent mission trip to Guatemala, the people she talked to said there is instability because of gang violence and lack of government response to a large volcanic eruption earlier this month.

“It is my belief that people would not leave if everything was fine … it’s not a luxury-type thing, it’s a survival reason,” Worner said.

According to the Los Angeles Times, most of the immigrants crossing into the U.S. illegally in recent years have been from Central America, where Guatemala is located.

“I do think, with having it be a vigil instead of a protest, it gives people an opportunity to be part of that situation without having it be a political campaign,” Worner said.

Another Marshalltown resident planning to go to the event is Grant Sincox. He said he is “advocating for the reunification of immigrant children and parents” at the border and wants to support “immigrants seeking refuge and asylum in the United States.”

For more information on the vigil event, contact Adelmund at imlistening079@gmail.com or visit the event’s Facebook page.

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Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com