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Thousands Hit Downtown LA Streets For Immigration Protest

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Thousands of people gathered in downtown Los Angeles Saturday for a march and rally to decry the separation and detention of immigrant families.

The "Families Belong Together - Freedom for Immigrants March" began at 11 a.m. outside L.A. City Hall.

"If you are pro-family, you cannot separate families," L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said to the crowd. "Mr. Trump, do your job. ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), do your job ..." Garcetti said.

The mayor's speech was followed by remarks from model Chrissy Teigen, and then a performance of "What's Goin' On" and a new song, titled "Preach," by her husband, singer and musician John Legend.

"This an inflection moment," California Sen. Kamala Harris said. "This is a moment in time that is requiring us to look in a mirror and ask a question, and that question is `Who are we?' I believe the answer is `We are better than this."'

South Los Angeles Rep. Maxine Waters, who has been embroiled in an escalating war of words with Trump in recent days, later took the stage and did not hold back.

"I know there are those who are talking about censuring me, kicking me out of Congress ... shooting me," Waters said, alluding to recent death threats that prompted her to cancel two speaking events in the South she had planned for this weekend. "If you shoot me, you better shoot straight -- there's nothing like a wounded animal."

Other scheduled speakers included Secretary of State Alex Padilla, county Supervisor Hilda Solis, California Lt. Gov. and gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom, and Sen. Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles. MoveOn, CHIRLA, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, the Women's March LA Foundation and the Council on American-Islamic Relations were among the many groups participating.

The "Families Belong Together - Freedom for Immigrants March," was set to follow the rally, and will end in front of the immigration holding facility on Aliso and Alameda streets. Attendees were urged to wear white in a show of unity.

The L.A. march is among more than 700 protests planned nationwide.

CBS2's Greg Mills said the LAPD estimated the LA crowd at about 75.000.

Other #FamiliesBelongTogether Southern California rally locations include Pasadena, Irvine, Malibu, Laguna Beach, Carlsbad, National City, Ramona, San Diego, Palm Springs, Moreno Valley, Riverside and Temecula.

The Los Angeles march will be the second major demonstration focused on the Trump administration's immigration policy to be held within a week downtown, following a series of protests and rallies that occurred Tuesday when Attorney General Jeff Sessions came to town for a speech. About a dozen clergy members were arrested that day outside the federal courthouse at 312 N. Spring St. after refusing to move out of the street when the Los Angeles Police Department declared an unlawful assembly.

The attorney general's visit came on the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld President Donald Trump's ban on foreign visitors and immigrants from seven nations. For the past several weeks, the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy on undocumented immigrants -- including the now-rescinded policy of separating children from their parents when they are apprehended at the Mexican border -- has sparked an international outcry.

Trump agreed to rescind the separation part of the policy, but opponents say the administration has no plan for the speedy reunification of those families. On Friday, the U.S. Justice Department filed papers in Los Angeles federal court seeking to have the families held together, indefinitely, in detention centers.

A smaller counter-protest by the group L.A. County for Trump was scheduled for 12:30 p.m. at the federal detention center at 535 N. Alameda St. Both sided screamed at each other but police kept the groups separated.

"We have a number of our members in L.A. County for Trump will be broadcasting our counter-protest live on Facebook and YouTube," organizer Arthur Schaper said. "We will also have posters, signs and shirts that commemorate Americans who have been killed by illegal aliens."

Mills spoke to a couple who brought their 4-year-old daughter to the anti-Trump policy gathering.

"I cannot imagine a child her age," said the mom, "being separated from her mom or dad. And not knowing what's going on."

(©2018 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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