WASHINGTON — Tens of thousands of people turned out from coast-to-coast Saturday in "Families Belong Together" rallies to protest the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy and implore their fellow citizens to turn out to vote in November's midterm elections.
While the thrust of the near 750 marches and rallies was to defend the 2,000 children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, the tone was decidedly political.
In Atlanta, Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon who once marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., was blunt: "We've got to get out and vote like we never voted before," he said, prompting chants from the crowd," Vote! Vote! Vote!"
He roused the crowd by imploring them: "Don't give up, don't give in — keep marching."
In Dallas, where hundreds turned out downtown to call for a clear plan to reunify families separated the administration policy, one sign said simply: “November is coming.”
In the nation's capital, thousands poured into Lafayette Square, across from the White House, to chant “We care” and “No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA.”
Protesters waved signs in English and Spanish.
One sign, sounding like a mother's stern rebuke, read in Spanish, “Trump te calmas o te calmo.” Translation: "Calm down, Trump, or I will calm you down."
Another sign said, “Melania & Ivanka, stop the child abuse.”
While President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump avoided the chants in Washington, the protests followed them to their weekend retreat in Bedminster, N.J.
Only a few miles from Trump National Golf Course, more than 100 protesters lined the side of a major New Jersey highway waving anti-Trump signs and chanting, “Where are the children!”
Jack Gavin, of West Caldwell, N.J., handed out miniature copies of the U.S. Constitution, “Facts Matter” pins and cold drinks. He said he also planned to attend rallies in Newark and Clifton,N.J.
In Washington, Shelley Kohl, a retired business owner from Johnson City, Tennessee, said she does not usually engage in politics, but the images of children being separated from their parents motivated her to travel here for the protests.
“Kids don’t belong in cages. Families don’t belong in cages, and kids absolutely don’t belong being removed from their families,” Kohl said.
In New York City, protesters at a Manhattan park chanted "shame!" and "shut detention down" as they geared up to march across the Brooklyn bridge to Cadman Plaza, near the federal courthouse.
Episcopalian Chaplain Jenifer Gamber, 52, said she hoped to send a strong signal to elected officials about the public's opinions on immigration.
"I am appalled at the Trump administration’s treatment of people seeking asylum in the United States that criminalizes asylum-seeking and separates families," Gamber said.
Organizers in the Families Belong Together Coalition included the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the ACLU, Leadership Conference and MoveOn.org.
"(The) family separation crisis is not over. We have a situation where the Trump administration seems to be aiming to detain families," said Karthik Ganapathy, a MoveOn.org spokesman.
Each state is hosting at least one event. California was on track to host at least 80 on Saturday, according to the Families Belong Together website.
In El Paso, several hundred people took part in a rally at the front of the Paso del Norte international bridge downtown. "America will be defined by its borders . . . not by Trump and not by walls," Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights, one of the El Paso rally organizers, told the crowd from the back of a white pickup truck parked just outside the international port of entry.
"We are so tired of the racist, anti-immigrant agenda of this administration," he said. "This administration is putting (immigrant) families in danger."
"Immigrants helped build our nation. Now, they come through the new Ellis Island," he said as he pointed to the international port of entry behind him, and drawing cheers from the crowd.
In Boston, the “Rally against Family Separation” began with a morning march from City Hall to Boston Common, where a large rally took place. The protest was meant to oppose Trump’s ban on travelers from certain Muslim-majority nations.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Congressman Joe Kennedy III, both Massachusetts Democrats, were in attendance, with the senator telling the crowd, “This is about children held in cages.” Warren recently visited a Border patrol processing center in McAllen, Texas.
Organizers demanded that local government agencies stop cooperating with federal immigration authorities.
A second demonstration Saturday afternoon was expected to begin with a march from Wellington Common Park to the South Bay House of Correction, a county jail in Boston which houses undocumented immigrants apprehended by federal officials.
Some 700 rallies were mounted in all states, ranging from cities like Austin, Nashville and San Francisco, to Fort Myers, Florida and the Milwaukee suburbs.
Among the rallies:
— In Louisville, Ky., protesters sought refuge from thesweltering heat arond Metro Hall. Art Baltes stood out from the crowd, pacing back and forth under the sunshine with a banner in hand: “Immigrants and Refugees Welcome.”
Baltes, of Louisville, said his Catholic faith spurred him to attend the rally. “That’s exactly where it starts — our faith,” he said. “We just want people to know that people in this town support immigrants and refugees.”
— In Nashville, Abigail Taylor, a 37-year-old mother of three, said she “can’t in good conscious pretend like nothing is happening and have my family go about like nothing is wrong.”
“The idea of someone taking them from me without saying goodbye, and them thinking I abandoned them, breaks my heart," she said.
— In York, Pennsylvania, John Terlazzo sat cross-legged wearing a sign bearing a quote from Buddha that said, "Hatred never ceases by hatred." Asked why he was attending the rally, he said, “Because I’m sane.This whole regime is an atrocity. And I don’t care who you are, you don’t mess with children.”
— In Ithaca, New York, about 500 people turned at on the Ithaca Commons to protest Trump's "zero tolerance" immigration policies and family separation.
Among the signs was one reading: Nazi's separated families. We shall not."
— In Denver, where 4,000 people turned out for a boisterous rally, Joan Culwell of Littleton said she had never been to a protest but decided to go after first lady Melania Trump recently wore a coat that read, “I really don’t care, do u?” while traveling to visit migrant children.
Culwell wore a T-shirt saying, “I care!! Do you?”
— In Onancock, Virginia, an Eastern Shore town with a population of under 1,300, some 60 people turned out for a march and a "Rally for the Children" protest organized by a grassroots committee.
Karen Mallard, former Democratic candidate for Congress, told the crowd: "We're in this mess because citizens haven't been paying attention. So, this is how America becomes great again — we all get involved; we all march, and marching is just the beginning."
The nationwide rallies were in response to a widespread desire among many Americans to take action against Trump's crackdown on immigration, said Lorella Praeli, ACLU director of immigration policy and campaigns.
"This is our country, and if there is something happening that takes us in the wrong direction, we can’t stay silent," Praeli said. "It’s on us to hold our elected officials accountable, to hold our president accountable and to demand action. So silence in this moment is complicity."
After Trump signed an executive order last week ending the family separations, a California judge ordered the Trump administration Tuesday evening to reunite the migrant families it had separated.
There are 2,047 children that must be placed in the same facility as their parents within the next two to four weeks. But U.S. law and a series of court rulings that limit the amount of time minors can be held in detention will further complicate those reunions.
A June 18 CBS News poll showed 67 percent of Americans found separating undocumented immigrant children and parents at the border "unacceptable."
In Columbus, Ohio, at least one person has been arrested when protesters blocked a downtown Columbus street after about 2,000 people attended a two-hour rally outside the Statehouse.
The Columbus Dispatcher reports that police initially tried to shepherd the protesters from the intersection Saturday. A woman was taken away by police after a scuffle.
Contributing: Nick Muscavage, in Bedminister, N.J.; Jordyn Pair, in Nashville; Shannon Hall, in Louisville; Matt Steekcer, in Ithaca, N.Y., Carol Vaughn in Onancock, Va., and Samantha Ruland, in York, Pa., USA TODAY Network; The Associated Press