‘Love not hate’: Protesters chant at Rock Hill office of Sen. Lindsey Graham
Mary Ann Kilkuskie stood on the edge of Main Street outside Lindsey Graham’s office Tuesday. She held a white sign, with the words “Close the camps now” written in red marker.
She had stopped at Dollar Tree a few minutes before to make the sign. Mary Scheper stood next to her. Her sign said “Asylum seekers have heartbeats, too.”
A woman in an SUV drove by and yelled out her window. “Morons!” She stopped at a nearby intersection light, got out of her car and headed toward the protesters. “You’re a disgrace to America,” she shouted. Kilkuskie and Scheper held their signs and tried to ignore her. The light turned green. The woman jumped back in her car and drove away.
“It makes me sad for our country,” Scheper said.
The two women stood with about 30 protestors, in 90 degree heat, to demand the closure of immigrant detention centers. The protest, which was organized by Vickie Holt, was part of a national effort by advocacy groups MoveOn, United We Dream, American Friends Service Committee and Families Belong Together to peacefully protest in front of local congressional offices.
“We want to demonstrate that there are people in South Carolina who feel strongly about human rights issues,” Holt said. “We are considered to be a very red state. But this is something to show Senator Graham and this administration that his demographics may have changed.”
Holt, from Rock Hill, said she started planning the event Monday morning. She said within 24 hours, 31 people notified her that they were coming. She said she made a courtesy call to the police and made sure the group didn’t need a permit to protest on the sidewalk.
The secretary in Graham’s office said they were not aware of the scheduled protest.
Kissi Summitt, 30, drove from Belmont, N.C., to attend the protest. She brought her two young daughters in a stroller. Her 3-year-old daughter Ayla sat in the front. She wore a dress with red, white and blue stars and carried a sign decorated with bold, red letters that said “Save those kids.”
Summit, who wore a black T-shirt with a cartoon of Wonder Woman punching Trump, said Ayla colored in the letters herself.
“I asked her if she wanted to go to the pool or, and then I told her about how there’s children in cages and they’re not with their moms,” Summitt said. “And that’s all I said. She was like, ‘I’m not going to the pool. Let’s go there. We’ve got to save those kids.’ So, she’s the little protester.”
Summit started to cry.
“Just as a mom. The thought of not being with my kid, it’s just I can’t imagine.” Ayla walked over and hugged her mom’s legs. Summitt rubbed the top of her daughter’s head.
The group grew to its maximum a few minutes after noon. They chanted “Love — not hate — makes America great” and “Say it loud. Say it clear. Immigrants are welcome here.” Dennis Spring, from Charlotte, brought his guitar and performed “This land is your land.” The group held signs and sang along.
Laura Booth, 48, of Fort Mill, brought her 14-year-old daughter, Kylie Booth, to the protest. Ever since her mom took her to the Women’s March in Washington D.C. in January, Kylie said she feels it’s important to speak up.
“I hope that this adds up to something that eventually will persuade people to realize that these are kids being separated from their parents,” Kylie said. “And not being supplied the necessities they need to live.”
“Like toothbrushes,” her mom interjected. “A bed to sleep in. A warm, safe, sanitary space.”
Michael Patterson, 28, drove about two hours from Greenville to participate in the protest. He skipped work for the protest. He got to work at 7 a.m. and told his boss he needed to attend a protest. His boss agreed.
“Saying nothing is condoning,” Patterson said. “That’s really all it is.”
Right as he spoke, a truck drove by and honked. The driver waved out the window and the group cheered.