“Old Farts” Group Protest Results in Arrest of 6 at ICE in Philadelphia”
As a group of elders we wanted to call attention to what was happening to the three thousand children that had been forcibly taken from their parents when they entered the United States from our southern border. We were appalled that our government would harm children in this way. Have you ever witnessed a children or a parent that have lost each other in a public place? The child is crying, the parent is near hysteria with fear. Imagine if they were not able to find each other. Imagine if they were in a strange country, where everyone was speaking a different language. Could you imagine the fear? The terror?
These families have survived the arduous journey to come to the United States – in most cases fleeing situations in their home country where their lives have been threatened, relatives have been killed, children or women taken as hostages or been raped. These parents are not coming here for the “good life” – they are coming to the U.S. seeking asylum.
As a grandmother and mother of five children my heart went out to those parents and children. I know that this treatment is inhumane, uncaring and unethical – because we don’t use children to further political agendas. These policies of putting families, with young children, into detention, and of separating families at the border must stop.
I was not alone in my concern. Friends invited me to a meeting, where they were discussing how to bring attention to this issue. There had been many protests at the local ICE -- Immigration and Customs Enforcement – office, and we wanted to keep up the pressure. We decided to arrive early, stand in front of the door with a banner, and not allow anyone to enter or leave.
A lawyer friend advised us about what might happen. His daughter, a journalist, helped get our press release to the media. Another man, a disability rights attorney, informed his clients who decided to show up – and, added their powerful presence. One woman, a professor, wrote our press release. Two other women put together facts about immigration – which was read as part of our demonstration. Another friend wrote chants and gathered songs, and another showed up with a guitar and portable microphone. One woman is a rabbi and knows how to lead a service – so she was the natural emcee. We had a retired physician’s assistant, fluent in Spanish, who gave an interview with Spanish language press. Several of use wrote 3 minutes “speeches.”
We each agreed that we would elicit five other people to come down and join us – either to “risk arrest” or stand in support. In the end 4 of us stood and 2 of us sat, in front of the ICE office door blocking the door for 2 ½ hours; about 70 others joined us on the streets, and many, many others honked their horns as they passed by.
What did we accomplish?
- We learned that we could easily organize and take a stand for something that was important to all of us.
- We had good media coverage, and several of us were quoted on NPR, and the local TV stations each ran small segments.
- People were inspired – maybe empowered. Many people noticed that old folks were standing and speaking as elders. It garnered attention.
- A local councilwoman attended and powerfully adding her voice to ours.
- We got worldwide press coverage with “85 year old Rabbi Gets Arrested.”
- Young people loved us and noticed. We were called “Old Farts” by one of our own. I cringed –but then I paid attention. “Old Farts” went viral. Young folks were impressed, they want “to be like the Old Farts” when they are old. They offered us bail money. They/we were touched that we/they cared.
I still believe that it is important to act like an elder. To raise our moral voice and stand for the principles and values that we know are critical to a healthy society, speaking for the welfare of all – most especially the children.
But now I am willing to also be called an Old Fart -- and not take myself so seriously! I’ve learned that it can be an endearing term, an embrace of old age in a jocular kind of way -- so, although I want to stand as an elder I am now OK about being called an “Old Fart.”
What Can You Do?
- Check out the media coverage – what do you think?
- Get together with friends and consider if there is something you want to do together. You don’t need to risk arrest. You can speak up in City Council. Attend a community meeting – identify yourself as an elder.
- Join Conscious Elders Network – and become part of a national movement of elders.
- Read -- "Caravan of Grandmothers Heads to Mexican Border" in YES! Magazine
- Learn More at RAICES -- The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services