Immigration Policy Inspires “Interdependence Walk”

Fourth of July gathering will begin at Windmill

President Trump may have signed an executive order last week stopping border police from separating migrant children from their parents but outrage over his hard-line immigration
policies lingers on among organizers of a walk with the theme “Interdependence Day: Keeping Families Together.”

It’s planned for July 4 in downtown Sag Harbor. Slated to begin at the John A. Ward Memorial Windmill at the foot of Long Wharf at 11 a.m., the event will start with “words, music and song,” according to Minerva Perez of Sag Harbor, director of OLA (Organización Latino-Americana) of Eastern Long Island, one of the sponsoring organizations. After the initial program, participants will walk up Main Street through the village.

The demonstration is expected to take no more than 90 minutes, according to the special event permit application filed by Leah Oppenheimer of Temple Adas Israel and approved by the Sag Harbor Village Board earlier this month. The permit authorizes the use of village property, Long Wharf, for the event.

Ms. Perez said the initial idea came from Kathy Engel, a local civil rights activist, artist and poet, well before the call went out for a national protest on June 30. “Kathy sent me a message saying she’d like something else to happen on July 4 that would signify a deeper look at Independence Day and what it means,” Ms. Perez recalled.

Through text messaging and emails, that conversation blossomed and eventually some 25 people met to decide what to do “in response to families being separated,” said Ms. Perez. They agreed on a walk that would “not be an angry protest but an absolutely moving and galvanizing image” of respectful concern, she said.

“The effect of recent and continued dehumanizing practices at a national level,” said Ms. Perez, “has a direct impact on all of us” that compels “a response to these practices.”

Initially sponsored by Temple Adas Israel, OLA and the South Fork Unitarian Universalist Congregation, the event has been drawing more backers through email and Facebook contacts, Ms. Perez said on Monday. By early this week, they included Racial Justice East End, the Children’s Museum of the East End, the Conservative Synagogue of the Hamptons, Canio’s Cultural Café, PEER (Progressive East End Reformers), Solidarity Sundays and the Hamptons Lutheran Parish.

Village Police Chief Austin J. McGuire was still assessing the need for a police presence at the event on Wednesday. Earlier in the week, he said he expected no problems except rubbernecking at Main Street crosswalks that disrupt the traffic flow. But as news coverage
during the week suggested the event might be larger than the one implied on its permit application, which he called “kind of vague”, he said he might have to cancel the assignment of a village traffic control officer and a police officer to the July 4 parade in Southampton and possibly call for support from town and state police departments.

Ms. Engel, whose daughter Ella Engel-Snow is also an organizer of the event, commented on Monday that “the beauty of this is so many people just joined in a soon as we put the word out.”

“It seems like when people hear about it they want to be a part of it,” she added. “They want to say ‘yes’ to our neighbors and our communities,” in keeping with the theme that we are all interdependent, “and say ‘no’ to policies that we consider cruel and horrific.”

President Trump’s executive order hasn’t changed the event’s focus, Ms. Engel said, because his so-called “zero-tolerance” policy “is not changing. Great numbers of children and individuals and families are still in detention. Yes, we’ll acknowledge” the executive order “but
our work will continue to address this cruel policy.”

Rev. Kimberly Johnson of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Fork commented, “As Unitarian Universalists, we believe that every single person is worthy of dignity and respect. We believe that we are each a part of an interdependent web of life. We cannot witness the dehumanization of any people. We cannot witness the heartless disregard for families without speaking up.”

“This country is in utter social crisis,” said Ella Engel-Snow, a poet and affordable housing advocate. “Rather than seeking rehabilitation, our government is creating new trauma for children and families. I hope that we can unbury our humanity and open our eyes enough to
see our own reflection in the faces of each other.”