"Day Without Immigrants" Strike Draws Hundreds To Statehouse Protest

Feb 16, 2017

With signs declaring "Stop The Deportations" and chants in Spanish of "Columbus is my home," hundreds of protesters rallied at the Ohio Statehouse in downtown Columbus on Thursday.

Part of the nationwide "Day Without Immigrants" strike, the protesters included many who walked out of their jobs to take a stance against President Trump's immigration policies.

The national boycott aimed to highlight the contributions of immigrants to the country's economy and culture, with some restaurants and businesses voluntarily closing to show solidarity.

Red Migrante, a local branch of a national immigrant's rights organization, reported that over 100 Central Ohio businesses and restaurants closed Thursday, including all eight locations of the large grocery chain La Michoacana.

That included Columbus businesswoman Emilia Padilla, who shut her Super Look salon and gave her staff the day off. Herself an immigrant and U.S. citizen, Padilla says it will mean a financial lose, but she wants to take a stance against President Trump's immigration policies.

"If we all stand together and we can send a message together really loud that we are here, and even if they want to kick us out, we have nowhere to go because most of us have lived here for most of our lives," Padilla says.

As people lined up along the street, holding up signs and waving Mexican and other flags, passing cars honked in support.
Credit Esther Honig

Andrew Martinez, a local organizer with Red Migrante, says some business owners took a bit of convincing before they agreed to participate. Many came around after they received pressure from the local immigrant community.   

"Immigrants are the backbone of this country," Martinez says. "We generate a lot of revenue and if you can't support us today, we won't support you tomorrow."

Martinez says for those workers who could not afford to go on strike, they were able to tune in on the Facebook livestream. 

Downtown, a number of speakers - both locals and representatives of national groups - gave speeches in English and Spanish as a crowd of kids held signs on the Statehouse steps. At one point, the group recited the Pledge of Allegiance, and joined hands in prayer.

Noelia Ontiveros attended Thursday's protest with a large crucifix, to remind people that "Jesus was also an immigrant."
Credit Esther Honig

One attendee, Noelia Ontiveros, carried a large wooden crucifix on her shoulder.

When asked, why she'd brought it to the protest, Ontiveros said, "To remind people not to lose faith, and that they remember that Jesus was also an immigrant."