Miami-Dade County

Protesters outside debate want wages to go up and camp for migrant children to close

As far as protests go, the groups gathered outside the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts prior to Wednesday night’s Democratic presidential debate weren’t exactly registering on the Richter scale, or even shaking the walls of the downtown Miami concert hall.

The loudest group wasn’t even all that interested in the presidential race, it just didn’t want New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to succeed — at anything.

Dozens of New York City cops, who have been traveling the country with the mayor mostly because they’re upset that they don’t have a new contract, were in Miami to continue to express their displeasure. Beside them and expressing support stood union members from Miami-Dade and even Palm Beach County.

Sure, the debate attracted its share of eccentrics. On one corner of Northeast 13th Street and Biscayne Boulevard stood a group of people with a giant “Seek Jesus” sign. Catty-corner from them less than two dozen Trump supporters, some with rifles printed next to American flags and with signs that said, “Come and get it.”

The most organized of the protests though were on Northeast 14th Street just east of the center, out of sight of the other groups and behind some erected barriers. There, dozens of members of Service Employees International Union 1199 argued for higher wages and climate change.

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“We work, we sweat, for $15 on our check,” the group chanted.

“We’re in a situation where the economy doesn’t work for the working people,” said union vice president Dale Ewart. “This economy is different than the 1930s. Economic activity is up while workers wages are down.”

And next to the union workers, was a group that had gathered to scream as loud as it could about what it considers injustices being done at migrant children’s camps throughout the nation, particularly in Homestead.

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The group created a lengthy fence emulating the one in Homestead where passersby can actually look over and see some of the older children when they’re outdoors. Behind the fence was a group of people wearing orange baseball caps holding up quotes from children inside the camps who had spoken out.

One of them read, “I cried every day because I didn’t want to be there.”

On the fence it said “Homestead for Profit migrant child prison.” People wandered about holding up signs that said “shut it down.”

Mercedes Gomez said she thought she was done protesting in Miami until she saw a picture this morning of the Salvadoran man and his daughter dead on the bank of the Rio Grande River. It moved her enough to rush out to the Arsht Center and join in. Wednesday night she was questioning the cost the government claimed to be paying to keep each child in detention.

“$775 a day for the kids. They’re not getting soap. They’re not getting food. Where does all the money go? It goes to the contractors. It’s sickening.”

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