Nearly 200 people, many carrying signs protesting President Donald Trump's immigration policies, participated in a "Families Belong Together" march along Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs National Park on Saturday, one of more than 700 events that took place nationwide.
Also Saturday in the national park, The Confederate Square Group held its 31st event in Hot Springs, co-hosted by Arkansas Freedom Crew and The Hiwaymen, as the march took place along the Row. According to its Facebook page, the event was to discuss housing "undocumented minors" in Arkansas and the rise of socialism and communism in the state and the nation.
Justin Cully, Hot Springs National Park chief ranger, said 11 park rangers patrolled the area during Saturday's rallies to ensure safety.
"People come out and express their rights and do it in a peaceful way," Cully said. "Everything has been going great; no issues."
Cully said each group received permits and were allowed to express their views from noon to 5 p.m.
Kaela Bradbury, organizer of the "Families Belong Together" rally, said she was inspired after viewing photos of the children being separated from their parents in Texas as part of the administration's policies.
"I was personally affected seeing those children behind literal bars and cages. I have nephews and nieces that look just like those babies," Bradbury said.
She said while Trump's executive order has reversed a specific policy about separating families, no plan has been put into place to reunite the more than 2,000 children who have already been separated.
"The administration's policy is morally bankrupt. It's appalling," she said. "My motivation to protest today came from the protesters in Washington, D.C., who bombarded Kirstjen Nielsen, the head of homeland security. The next day she came in with the draft of the executive order that Trump then signed."
She said the turnout, estimated at 180 participants, was beyond her expectations, and said she was thrilled to be part of the four marches held within Arkansas. Bradbury said it leads her to believe that protesting will make a difference.
"It's hard to put into the words the unity and heartening feeling you get when you're marching with this many people who believe in this cause," she said.
The Confederate Square Group's event drew around 15 people, who handed out flyers listing over 20 organizations they believe "stand against the very fabrics in which America was founded," including March for Our Lives, Planned Parenthood and LGBTQ groups.
"We didn't plan to coincide with the families together move on group next to us, but we aren't that far apart in what we believe in," said James Del Brock of The Hiwaymen. "But we just need to keep America for us Americans before we can give it to someone else."
Brock said he believes Arkansas' financial status isn't stable enough to support immigrant children from other countries.
"We've already got too many kids in the foster system. It's not that we don't want to help, but number one it's illegal," Brock said. "We can maybe help them after we help ourselves. We need our broken system fixed and come up with ways to embellish the freedoms we have."
Brock said his group of men fight similarly to the "social justice warriors" that march next to them, but with a different agenda.Local on 07/01/2018
Print Headline: Immigration march draws nearly 200