At times, the massive march wending its way from downtown Minneapolis to the University of Minnesota Saturday afternoon felt more like a parade than a protest.
Among the 2,000 demonstrators were many children who toted homemade heart-shaped signs, grasped red balloons and handed out candy and flowers to immigrants they passed along the way.
Calling itself the Caravan of Love, the crowd, which stretched out along several city blocks, turned out to express support for refugees who may be affected by President Donald Trump’s efforts to limit travel from seven nations with majority Muslim populations.
“It may take years or even decades,” one organizer yelled through a megaphone, “but the people always win. We are what makes America great!”
The march began around noon outside the Federal Courts building in Minneapolis, leading supporters to the university’s West Bank, where some left flowers and love notes for immigrants and refugees near the Washington Avenue pedestrian bridge. Police diverted traffic on Washington and Cedar avenues S., temporarily blocking the road for speeches in the Cedar-Riverside area.
No one was arrested at the peaceful march, which concluded with a rally on campus.
Qais Munhazim, an Afghan refugee and doctoral student at the U, read aloud a message to his mother, whom he has not seen in five years. “Mom, I’m scared to sleep ... I’m scared of losing you,” said Munhazim, who missed his father’s funeral for fear of not being able to re-enter America with his student visa.
Parents carried children on their shoulders or led them by the hand. Some said they wanted their little ones to learn the importance of activism and inclusivity so they can stand up for classmates who might be targeted because of their ethnicity.
Ingrid Nuttall, of Minneapolis, marched alongside her 8-year-old daughter, who attended her first protest at age 2. “She understands that not everyone gets to enjoy the same rights,” said Nuttall, who also took her daughter to the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., last month. “I want her to feel uncomfortable with other people’s discomfort.”
The crowd was led by a banner that read “Love Embraces All.” Among the signs were some saying “I am a proud Mexican,” “I am a refugee” and a quote from the Bible — “I was a stranger and you welcomed me. — Jesus.”
Thoria Ali, of Savage, passed out origami swans symbolizing peace that she’d carefully folded last year during Sudanese Disobedience Day. Ali said she fled the violent regime in Sudan 20 years ago for freedom in America.
Though she misses her homeland, Ali said, “This is the best place for us.”