Etta Worthington led about 10 Forest Parkers to the Richard J. Daley Center on June 30 to protest the separation of children from their immigrant parents at the U.S./Mexico border.
“I have a heart,” Worthington explained. “When I hear recordings of children’s screams as they’re being taken from their parents, I think of my year-old grandniece who visited me this week.”
Worthington, founder of a local advocacy group Western Front Resistance, said now every time she sees her grandniece she imagines the little girl being ripped from her family. This image, along with her belief that the government’s policy of separating immigrant families is “egregious,” “heartless” and the work of a “police state,” led Worthington to brave temperatures above 90 degrees at the “Families Belong Together” rally, where she joined more than 50,000 marchers angry about the U.S. immigration policy and carried a homemade sign that said, “I want my America back.”
“I’m an activist,” Worthington said. “I’m wanting to not just care and feel, but have my body say what I think by being there.”
Worthington said people can drive change by registering to vote, training as deputy registrars and organizing on Facebook. Worthington herself sat outside the entrance to the Forest Park Aquatic Center during the annual Juneteenth celebration inviting attendees to register to vote. Forest Parkers can also register online at the State Board of Elections website, ova.elections.il.gov. Worthington is also collecting diapers for the 66 migrant children separated from their families in the Chicago area. To donate diapers, and learn more about Western Front Resistance, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Are we going to be bullied and live in fear or are we going to work with faith, hope and love towards changing things?” Worthington said.
Worthington said she started the group after Donald Trump was elected president. She said she didn’t understand the forces that got him into the nation’s highest office, but wanted to protest his conservative agenda any way she could. Even at large protests like the one that assembled in Daley Center on Saturday, Worthington said individual voices can always be heard.
“It’s going to make a difference,” she said.
To support her optimism, she cited the work of a national movement which refers to itself as “Indivisible,” the mission of which is “to fuel a progress grassroots network of local groups to resist the Trump agenda,” according to its website.
“Think about the thousands and thousands of Indivisible groups which have people of a like mind around the country meeting regularly in living rooms and coffee shops meeting saying ‘We have do something.’ That number has an impact,” she said.
One such Indivisible group is active in this area. Erika Bachner, a River Forest resident and the co-leader of Indivisible Oak Park Area, organized a group of more than 25 people to participate in the Families Belong Together rally and was one of the speakers on the platform at Daley Plaza on Saturday. Indivisible Oak Park Area includes residents from Forest Park, Elmwood Park, Berwyn and more.
Bachner’s father grew up in Colombia, and her mother emigrated from the violence in El Salvador when she was just 16. Starting with only a tourist visa, Bachner’s mother went through the legal channels to become a U.S. citizen.
“It was a really emotional day for me, because I saw hundreds of people arriving early to be marshals or voter registrars, people who last year might have just showed up and watched, but now are taking the next step to become more active,” Bachner said. “They are showing support for these migrant families who have left everything they own looking for a better future.”
Worthington said that when people operate out of love they can change things, but they also must set aside their fears and stand up for what is right. She held up the example of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials who have the job of physically taking children away from their parents. She acknowledged there are ICE officials who are doing everything they can to reunite children with their immigrant parents but wonders if there are ICE officials who are obeying orders because they are afraid of losing their jobs and not being able to pay their mortgages.
“I want to see individuals who are willing to lose their jobs for doing what is right,” she said. “We all need to be willing to do what is uncomfortable and risk some security by standing up for what is right.”
She added: “I believe that if we operate out of love it will change things.”