Protests were held on both ends of Pinellas County on Monday in opposition to the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents as they seek asylum at the U.S. border.
"Children are not pawns," "No kids in cages" and "I would rather deport racists than immigrants" were waved by a crowd of people who stood in the afternoon at the corner of State Road 580 and McMullen Booth Road in Clearwater.
That evening, more than 100 people gathered at Williams Park in downtown St. Petersburg to hold a rally organized by the Florida chapter of the Women’s March.
Ian Garrido, 41, who attended the Williams Park rally, told the Tampa Bay Times that his own story compelled him to speak out against the policy.
In 2014, he said he sought asylum legally at a border checkpoint, leaving Mexico City with his two children, who were 6 and 8 then.
"I can’t understand what would have happened if my children would have been ripped from me," he said.
Garrido also addressed the crowd, saying he always saw the U.S as an example of a place where things are done properly. But now he asks himself: "What is happening with this great mission?"
Others also spoke and sang of the need to take action. They also brandished signs that bore messages such as: "Immoral. Evil. Shameful."
Valentina Montoya, a 16-year-old student at Armwood High School and advocate with the anti-discrimination group Community Tampa Bay, emphasized how important it is to treat this not as a political issue but as a human rights issue.
"This is not a battle between Republicans and Democrats," she said. "This is a battle that needs to be tackled by humans ... children should not have to be used as leverage to get funding for a wall."