John Lewis Keynotes Atlanta Immigration Rally

About 20,000 people gathered at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Building to protest the White House immigration separation policy. ©2018 Harold Michael Harvey

Anti-ICE demonstrators shouted slogans in support of their cause, a MARTA train sped by on the tracks overlooking the gathering in the gulch below. The conductor of the train tooted its horn in solidarity with the protesters.The two sounds presented the ears with an interesting dichotic listening experience. Hearing the toots of the train’s horn, the crowd roared its approval and then began the short trek to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Building.

Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) delivered the keynote address in Atlanta during a national day of demonstrations against the Trump immigration policy of separating children from their parents when they cross the Mexican border.

Lewis spoke to a crowd conservatively estimated in the neighborhood of 20,000 men, women and children. They gathered out front of the Atlanta Detention Center at the corner of Peachtree Street, as it intersects with Brotherton Transportation Mall, where transients flock into the city on Greyhound buses, much like immigrants gather on our nation’s southernmost border . The transients tend to mill around Brotherton Transportation Mall hours and sometimes days after their arrival in Atlanta.

The Atlanta Detention Center housed immigrants arrested by ICE in Atlanta until two weeks ago when Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued an executive order prohibiting the practice.

When issuing the order Lance Bottoms said she did not want to be complicit in the Trump administration separation policy.

Congressman John Lewis reflecting on his days as a civil rights advocate encouraged demonstrators to get into some good trouble. ©2018 Harold Michael Harvey

Under a blue sky with patches of gray clouds Rep. Lewis took the podium. He was well received by the marchers. Several years ago when Lewis sought to address a group of young people during the Occupy Atlanta Movement, he was not allowed to speak by the young organizers. A lot has changed in eight years.

Lewis began by applauding the marchers for giving up their Saturday for this rally.

“You are doing the right thing today in downtown Atlanta,” Lewis said.

“I’m sick and tired and you are sick and tired of this administration separating children from their mothers. History will not be kind to us. I have heard the cries of the children and it has hurt me,” he said.

“We all live in the same house. It is not the American house, but the world house. There is no such thing as an illegal human being. We are all human,” Lewis exclaimed.

Immigration protesters in front of the Atlanta Detention Center ©2018 Harold Michael Harvey

Lewis, looking at all the people, said that it was a beautiful crowd, but it would take more than showing up at a rally to stop the separation of children from their parents at the border.

“When election day comes we have to vote like we never voted before. They said we could not get civil rights, then they said we would never get a voters rights bill, but we kept going,” Lewis said.

“It is now time to get into some good trouble. We are going to win this victory. The world is crying with us. We have to show the world that we are better than what is happening to America today,” Lewis concluded.

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist. He is a Contributor at The Hill, SCLC National Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine and Black College Nines. He can be contacted at

Harvey is Living Now Book Awards 2020 Bronze Medalist for his memoir Freaknik Lawyer: A Memoir on the Craft of Resistance. Available at

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