Thousands of activists in Wisconsin took part in a “Day Without Latinos” Monday in an attempt to prevent the Milwaukee County Sheriff from cracking down on undocumented immigrants.
The march in Milwaukee's predominantly Hispanic South Side was organized after County Sheriff David Clarke expressed interest in making his deputies Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers as a part of President Donald Trump's executive order.
Latinos and other protesters from at least 12 cities across Wisconsin traveled by bus to be part of the march, which was organized by Hispanic advocacy group, Voces de la Frontera. Community members and supporters were also advised to stay away from work and school, close businesses, and avoid purchases.
“Trump wants to paint immigrants as something we should be afraid of; that it is something bad,” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, the director of Voces de la Frontera. “When people do this general, wide strike what they show is that on the contrary immigrants are lifting up this economy and when they withhold their contributions we see a decline."
“Today is very important for everyone who lives in Wisconsin, but especially for the Milwaukee County area,” said Mario Garcia, a longtime member of Voces de la Frontera. “What we want to show is a united front against the hateful policies led by Mr. Trump.”
The County Sheriff's Office did not immediately return a request for comments.
According to Neumann-Ortiz, more than 150 businesses in the area reported that they closed their doors in support of the rally.
Wisconsin Sen. Chris Larson dedicated his day to support those marching for the cause.
"We wanted to show them that they can look up and realize that they are not alone," said Larson. "That there are leaders in their community who are standing up and will stand up with them to make sure they are not alienated and deported without due process."
Students, business owners, busloads of supporters and a handful of white and Muslim supporters gathered at Voces de la Frontera’s offices before they set off en route to their final destination at the Milwaukee County Courthouse.
Supporters could be heard chanting “Si se puede” [Yes we can] and “El pueblo unido” [The people united] up and down the sunny city block in Milwaukee.
“This is something to tell people we can fight, in the best way possible. We are here to share the same values as the American people,” said German Sanchez, a local dairy worker.
“It goes against the public safety of everyone who lives here and we want to make sure we have a safe county for everyone,” said Garcia.
In 2016, Voces de la Frontera organized the first “Day Without Latinos” in Madison in efforts to prevent two immigration bills being considered by state legislature.
“We believe that this is the beginning in a movement against these policies,” said Garcia. “We've done these types of marches before and we will continue to do them.”
"We are not waiting for history to happen. We are showing right away that this is not tolerable and we will not go quietly and allow this to happen," said Larson.