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    All photos by Shelby Brown

     

    El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!

    The guitarist strums his acoustic, singing the almost 50-year-old Chilean song in front of the ICE detention center in Louisville. The sun comes through the gloomy Thursday clouds and shines on more than 300 protestors.

    El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!The people united will never be defeated!

    With lyric sheets in hand, the crowd joins in. After the second verse, drums and tambourines punctuate the chorus.

    Filling half the length of South Seventh Street, people begin to show up before the 3 p.m. rally is set to begin. They wave American flags and hold multicolored homemade signs with slogans like, “Love Knows No Borders,” “Abolish ICE” and “Families Belong Together.” Cars drive past on the one-way street honking and waving at the crowd, which cheers.

    Rev. Mamie Broadhurst of Covenant Community Church approaches the mic, a colorful stole draped around her neck, and asks for a moment of silence as the rally starts.

    “It is true that silence is complicity, but silence is also sometimes the space that fills when we have no words to say,” she says over a loudspeaker. “Because there are things that are happening right now that are beyond words.”

    Broadhurst and the crowd fall into silence, disturbed only by the sounds of the city. They hold their signs solemnly, some praying for the families detained at the border under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.


    Rev. Mamie Broadhurst.

    Karina Barillas wears a shirt that reads, “Do I Look Undocumented to You?” and shouts over traffic. “We are not animals! Our babies are not animals! We do not belong in cages! Have mercy on those children. Have mercy on those families.”

    Behind her, the Louisville ICE Detention Center looms. It’s a simple building, one you wouldn’t look twice at. One you would drive past if you didn’t know what you were looking for. The only demarcation is on the glass front doors that read, “U.S. Immigration and Customs Reinforcement” underneath the Homeland Security emblem.

    Broadhurst criticizes the administration’s defense of its actions at the border. She brings up Romans 13, the Bible verse Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited to justify the separation of families. It has also been used to defend slavery.

    “See, Romans 13, it’s a tricky chapter,” Broadhurst says. “It’s tricky not just because of what it says, but because of how you choose to read it. Romans 13 is kind of like a biblical Rorschach test of the heart. How you see it, how you choose to use it, that says a whole lot more about you than it says about anything else!” 

    Broadhurst raises a stack of colored papers above her head and flips through them. Printed on the sheets are statements from 23 different religious groups condemning the administration’s actions at the border.


    Protestors tape statements from religious groups to the ICE detention center.

    The papers are taken from Broadhurst and with the help of some children present, taped securely to the front of the detention center’s doors. They stand out against the drab building as Mary Niang takes the mic. She has a notebook but doesn’t look at it. Her face is strong, encircled by her veil as she stands up straight. She tells the crowd she is a mother, an immigrant and a veteran.

    “We ran away for a better life. I don’t think that’s wrong,” she says.


    Mary Niang speaks.

    Lauren Jones Mayfield of Highland Baptist Church takes the mic, her green stole decked out with Planned Parenthood and LGBT+ buttons. Her eyes are fiery as she speaks to the crowd, her children nearby. They join her as she turns to look at the building behind her.

    “ICE!” she shouts with hundreds of voices. “You have crossed the line!”

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