Respect. Fear. Concern. Love. Solidarity.
Those were just some of the reasons hundreds of people gathered Thursday in Moore Square for the nationwide protest “Day Without Immigrants.”
The protest encouraged immigrants to skip work and school and to stop shopping for the day to show their value to the American economy.
José Terrazos, of Henderson, took the day off work and said he was proud of himself for showing up for his community at the Raleigh protest. He proudly held a small American flag into the air and chanted in Spanish with a large group of people.
“I’m not losing one day of work because I’m going to lose so much more if people are deported,” he said.
Terrazos said he’s been disheartened by the negative rhetoric since President Donald Trump was elected. He said he wants people to understand that the immigrant community is just like every other community — there are some bad people, but most are good and working hard to give their families a better future.
“I have been here for 15 years,” he said. “My family is all that I have. We want some respect. I’m here because I love my family and I love my friends.”
Ana Bustos, a La Costeña for Radio La Grande, spoke through a microphone in front of the crowd about the rhetoric.
“All I’ve seen is hate, hate, hate everywhere I go,” she said.
She also said that Trump’s administration has talked about deporting criminals, but has actually been taking away innocent immigrants.
“He’s been ripping [families] apart,” she said.
There was a strong sense of family at the protest. Many signs referenced the separation of immigrant families and several speakers discussed fear for their families.
Adamaris Mendez Cruz, 10, of Durham, said she took the day off school to protest for her family. She and her sister carried Mexican flags at the event.
“I came here so we can stay in America,” she said, adding that her parents are from Mexico. “I’m really scared because we really love this country.”
Cristian Flores, 12, stayed home from Benson Middle School and attended the protest with his dad and brother. He said he’s not afraid for his family but he worries about other kids at his school and their families.
“I wish every immigrant had my rights and abilities but sadly, they don’t,” he said. “We are not criminals. We are hard-working people who wake up early in the morning to work and make our family go to school.”
Several people stood on stage and shared their stories. They chanted and encouraged each other to come out from the shadows and live without fear.
“I wanted to say that immigrants make America great, that immigrants build America, that immigrants fight in the war for America and have died for America,” said Omar Branmontes, of Raleigh. “I want to say that, as an immigrant, I’m not an enemy of America; we’re not enemies of America and I’ve never hurt America. We’re part of America and we’re part of North Carolina; we’re part of our community of immigrants of America and we’re a part of the future of America.”
He said every person that works and fights for what they believe in and love deserves an opportunity.
To show support to immigrant workers and customers, many businesses across the Triangle closed for the day. Silvia Martinez closed her bakeries, El Pancito, in solidarity with immigrants.
“Immigrants are all being affected by what’s going on; we’re all being affected,” she said.
But, Martinez added, it was encouraging to see so many people gathered in one area for the immigrant community.
“Everybody’s united,” she said. “I think we’re making ourselves heard, hopefully.”