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Thousands march in Minneapolis to protest federal immigration policies

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Thousands of protesters make their way down the streets of Minneapolis.
Thousands of protesters make their way down the streets of downtown Minneapolis during a march protesting federal immigration policies on June 30, 2018.
Lacey Young | MPR News

Updated: 8:05 p.m. | Posted: 2:30 p.m.

Several thousand people gathered in downtown Minneapolis on Saturday afternoon to protest federal immigration policies.

It was one of hundreds of marches being held across the country on Saturday, part of an event called "Families Belong Together." Other Minnesota communities hosting marches and rallies included Duluth, Rochester, Brainerd and Mankato.

The Minneapolis marchers, many holding signs, gathered outside the Minneapolis Convention Center in the early afternoon. As of about 3:30 p.m., Minneapolis police estimated the crowd at about 7,000 people.

James Gutierrez, 15, and his sister Lilah, 8.
James Gutierrez, 15, and his sister Lilah, 8, ride on the back of a trailer while wearing chains during a march protesting federal immigration policies in downtown Minneapolis on June 30, 2018.
Lacey Young | MPR News

The marchers protested federal policies including the one that separated children from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as those that are keeping some families detained. The march included a trailer carrying a chain-link cage that organizers said was there to serve as a reminder of children and families being detained after illegally crossing the border from Mexico.

Among the marchers was Jana Kooren of the Minnesota ACLU, who brought her two children.

"They just ask me why all the time, 'Why is this happening? Why would anyone do this? Why are we putting 3-year olds in cages? That doesn't seem right to me,'" she said. "And I think you learn a lot from the wisdom of children, and if a 3-year-old says it's wrong — it's clearly something everyone should understand is wrong."

March organizer Emilia Gonzalez Avalos said the message of the day went beyond recent headlines.

"It is about the children but it is also about the unreckoned-with history of a country that has used immigrant labor as disposable and has failed to recognize that it is not families just deciding themselves to migrate, but a result of failed foreign policy and economic policy exported to other poor nations," she said.

Large protest in downtown Minneapolis now - part of several #FamiliesBelongTogether marches across the country today @MPRnews pic.twitter.com/nUiENDXwi1

— Nina Moini (@ninamoini) June 30, 2018

Some protesters on Saturday called for the abolition of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. And some addressed other issues, including the recent Supreme Court ruling on public-sector unions; racial justice; and the Trump administration's ban on travelers from several countries.

Tyler Houlton, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said ahead of the protests that the agency welcomed interest in the immigration system and said only Congress has the power to change the law.

"We appreciate that these individuals have expressed an interest in and concern with the critical issue of securing our nation's borders and enforcing our immigration laws," Houlton said. "As we have indicated before, the department is disappointed and frustrated by our nation's disastrous immigration laws and supports action."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.