On August 7 Mayor Barrett and others joined as we launched the dynamic new signs in front of Turner Hall, which generated considerable media coverage. As part of the dedication I noted that “Turner Hall is here only because of the dedication of immigrants and refugees from oppression abroad to promote physical fitness and social justice in America, and in Milwaukee in particular.”.
As we were leaving, some 600 Lutherans marched past Turner Hall, en route to the Milwaukee office of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), posting 9.5 theses to demand closing of the camps holding asylum seekers and separating families.
This was at least the third time recently that large numbers of religious affiliated people marched on that office, making similar demands. Some focused on camps closer to our southern border, but this same office has been involved in tearing prominent leaders, including clergy, from communities in southeastern Wisconsin.
An August 1st, a Jewish led action (#NeverAgainIsNow, www.neveragainaction.com/) was prepared for civil disobedience; their action caused the ICE officials to close down entirely, even though the demonstrators made clear that they would not obstruct any one from entering the building for their appointments.
Some have criticized the opposition of hyperbole, such as by using the term “concentration camps” in demanding the end to concentrating asylum seekers in deplorable conditions behind chain link fences and with young children torn from their parents. Michael Rosen, a leader in the action led by Wisconsin Jews, whose relatives suffered from the nazis, asserted that opposition is needed now: "People are marginalized once you turn them into the 'other,' which is what happened in Germany long before the Final Solution," Rosen said. "That's when you lay the basis for the kind of atrocities that took place in Germany."
Perhaps his point was made all too clear by the mass murders just a few days later in El Paso and Dayton. The racist proclamations identified with the accused gunman who killed 22 in El Paso have been widely reported, but less reported is that in Dayton six of the nine people killed were Black, and another, the accused killer’s sister, was reportedly dating a Black man. Is this further evidence that the wide spread promotion and apparent acceptance of white supremacy encompasses wholesale murders as well?
Ironically perhaps, the major interfaith gathering in Milwaukee responding to these latest massacres coincided with the seventh anniversary of the attack by a white supremacist on the Sikh temple in Oak creek on August 5th, led by Pardeep Kaleka a former member of the Turners board, whose father was the Temple president and among the six murder victims in 2012. What some saw as a tragic aberration back then, seems to have become almost commonplace today. Have we indeed come to the point that “Never Again” is now? And if so, what must be done?
Art Heitzer, President