Kennedy, Markey Excite ‘We Will Resist’ Rally Near Downtown Crossing

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BOSTON – U.S. Senator Edward Markey, U.S. Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III, and community activists spoke to a fired-up crowd at the Irish Famine Memorial on Tuesday afternoon to defend affordable health care, workers’ rights, and immigrants’ rights in the face of possible challenges by the Trump Administration.

Recently released memos from the Department of Homeland Security have given more detail to the tighter immigration laws and procedures outlined in the border security executive order President Donald Trump signed in January, a topic that was frequently mentioned during the “We Will Resist” rally at the corner of Washington Street and School Street in downtown Boston.

Kennedy, a Brookline Democrat, spoke of his own ancestors’ coming to America from Ireland in the 19th century, saying that their government in the old country wasn’t providing for its people. Vowing to the crowd to keep fighting in Washington to preserve Obamacare and to continue the fight for equal pay and immigration reform, Kennedy told a cheering crowd that “whether your name is Gutierrez, Walsh, Kennedy, or Trump, we all come from families of immigrants.”

Kennedy also criticized President Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again,” saying “no one person has ever made America great,” and praised the nation’s nurses, teachers, firefighters, and soldiers.

“I wish with every fiber of my being that our president would come to this corner today, in front of this statue with all of you, to see what makes America great,” he said.

Markey, a Democrat from Malden, who earlier had joined an energetic crowd in a health care chant, gave an impassioned speech about Massachusetts’s role in fighting against discrimination and injustice, citing the beginning of the American Revolution, women’s suffrage, the abolitionist movement, and accessible health care.

“And we won,” he proclaimed.

Echoing Kennedy’s story of immigration in his family, Markey spoke of his grandparents coming from Ireland to Malden, with the family producing a U.S. senator just two generations later. He declared to the crowd that he wants today’s immigrants to “have the same rights as the Markeys and the Kennedys.”

The crowd yelled their thanks at the senator as he spoke of better education and health care opportunities for America’s children. Claiming that too many people today are “looking at a past nostalgically that never existed,” he told the crowd that “the past is a memory, the future is our reality.”

U.S. Senator Edward Markey addresses We Will Resist rally in Boston on Tuesday, February 21.
Photo by Samantha-Rae Tuthill

Other speakers at the event included Sadya Mohamed, a naturalized U.S. citizen who originally immigrated from Sudan, Julia Gonzalez, a professional health care provider who emphasized the importance of MassHealth to her consumers and her own family, and Kathleen Paul of the Massachusetts Senior Action Council.

Sadya Mohamed, an immigrant from Sudan, speaks.
Photo by Samantha-Rae Tuthill

Workers’ unions attended the event, as well. Eugenio Villasante, spokesman for 32BJ Service Employees International Union, which represents more than 163,000 workers, said that residents across Massachusetts are fearful of the way the country is approaching the new immigration policies, saying that he believes there is a more “common sense” approach.

“Trump promised to only target criminals, but now he’s going after mothers, fathers, people who have been here for decades contributing to their communities,” he said.

From travel bans to crackdowns on immigrants, Villasante said that people’s lives have been disrupted for the past few weeks, making communities afraid, regardless of their status.

“We’re here to tell these people that we are with you, we feel your pain, and we won’t be silenced,” he said.

Other members of the crowd spoke of their fight for pay equality, an increased minimum wage, and criminal justice reform, as well, calling Massachusetts a constant leader of revolutions that they hope will effect changes to improve workers’ rights here and across the rest of the country. 

At the end of the speeches, Kennedy and Markey were presented with a box of letters to take with them to Washington to help tell the stories of Massachusetts workers and immigrants.