Photos and story by Anthony Merriweather / Contributing Writer
With hopes to urge Congress to pass a “clean DREAM Act,” supporters of undocumented immigrants marched in silence from Cumberland Park to the steps of the Tennessee State Capitol on Saturday afternoon.
The march was organized under the working organization name, Nashville Dreamers, by a group of students from Belmont University and Trevecca Nazarene University, with the help of organizations such as the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. Before the silent march began, Luci Fernandez, a Belmont University student and member of the silent march organizing team, explained that the march was is in solidarity with people who are in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the parents of those with DACA status and the 11,000,000 undocumented immigrants who live in the United States. In September, the Trump administration decided to rescind the DACA program with a six-month delay, leaving approximately 800,000 undocumented immigrants, known as Dreamers, in limbo.
To support the theme of silence, supporters covered each other’s mouths with duct tape. The only sounds being made from the crowd of participants were drums being played by leaders of the silent march. The drums were in place to allow marchers to focus and distract themselves from the comments of passersby who may disapprove of their message. Fernandez explained that the use of duct tape and the silence of the participants is symbolic and provides a glimpse into what it means to be an undocumented immigrant in America.
“Growing up, immigrants don’t make a lot of ruckus,” Fernandez said. “We don’t make noise. We don’t bring attention to ourselves, right? Because, (there is a) fear of immigration and fear of getting stopped by the police … So, you stay silent, you don’t talk and you don’t tell people, ‘Oh, I’m an immigrant’ or ‘I’m a DACA recipient’ … Our whole thing is, here’s your last chance to be quiet, and to be silent, here’s space for you to grieve … When you get here, you realize that has not worked. DACA was rescinded without another plan in place.”
Over 100 people participated in the silent march. The crowd was diverse, with people from various racial backgrounds, age groups and organizations. Fernandez also said that bringing different people together in support of issues like this is important in maintaining a healthy environment for everyone that considers Nashville their home.
“We need Nashville to be our city,” Fernandez said. “That doesn’t mean just (Nashville Predators) stuff. It also means making sure our community is safe and our community is happy.”
Once the participants of the silent march reached the end of the Pedestrian Walk Bridge, they pushed through tourists on 2nd Avenue to eventually finish the march at Capitol Hill. The silent march participants were escorted by the Neon Guard, a volunteer group dedicated to facilitating the safety of marginalized communities. Speakers with DACA status shared stories of their immigration on the courthouse steps, including an educator from Cane Ridge High School. Hernan Crescencio, a Trevecca Nazarene University student and a member of the silent march organizing team, was responsible for gathering speakers for the march and delivered a message of his own at the end of the march.
“I want people to know we’re not staying silent anymore,” Crescencio said. “Trump removed DACA, and now the pressure is on us. The pressure is on the people … to take action. We can no longer stay silent, and this march we had symbolized that.”
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