That it has been nearly six weeks since a 20-year resident of Apalachicola, a manager at the Piggly-Wiggly, was placed at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in Wakulla County, was not lost on a crowd of about two dozen in front of the State Capitol Saturday afternoon in Tallahassee.
“First they came for Jose, and we said ‘not today,” chanted the protestors, about half of whom had driven in from Franklin County to take part.
“Pancho is the best of US,” read one of the signs.
“Our neighbor, free Pancho,” and ““We are all Poncho” read others.
Jose Francisco “Pancho” Grijalva Monroy, 50, has been has been incarcerated in Crawfordville and held there without bail since Feb. 3, when he was arrested in front of his home as he headed for his job at the Piggly Wiggly. The reasons for Monroy's apprehension have not been made public, and his family have asked their lawyers not to comment on the case.
What mattered most to the protestors was the larger issue of immigration policy that surrounds Monroy’s case, and their signs and chants underscored their objections to the wave of immigration arrests being championed by the Trump administration.
“I care because it’s happening in my backyard,” said Savannah Middlebrooks, a Tallahassee activist who secured the permit for the three-hour rally at the corner of Monroe Street and Apalachee Parkway.
“We’re losing what we stand for. This helps me feel less powerless,” she said.
Apalachicola attorney Shannon Stallings, who does not represent Grijalva, was on hand with her three daughters to voice their support for the man whose first grade son played on the same soccer team as eldest daughter Naomi, who held up a personalized, hand-lettered sign that read “Free my frind’s dad!”
The younger twins, Essy and Virginia, held up signs similar to what the adults were holding, which asked “How does All Lives Matter exclude anyone?” and declared “Keep families together,” “We are all immigrants,” and “You’ll never silence Voice of the Voiceless.”
The rally featured remarks from Apalachicola’s Beth Wright, who helped coordinate the participation of local folks. She spoke of Monroy’s ties to the community, and of the experience that his wife, and high school aged and elementary age sons, have been through since his arrest.
She noted the petition on moveon.org, so far with 277 names, that calls on Florida Sen. Bill Nelson to aid in Monroy’s release. She also stressed the gofundme campaign that is now more than halfway towards its $5,000 goal to help with expenses for Pancho’s family.
Also speaking out were Daniela Donoso, a student who works with Florida State University’s Center for the Advancement of Human Rights, who told of coming here at six months old from Ecuador, and being without legal; status while growing up in America. She spoke of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, started by the Obama administration in June 2012 but opposed by the Trump administration,. that allows certain undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation.
“Seeing allies means the world to me,” she said. ”We’re fighting for Pancho and we’re fighting for all the undocumented, that their work is not valued.”
Donoso spoke of the “new environment for undocumenteds” that pervades the country’s politics, and described the ongoing efforts of the Human Rights Center.
“Solid as a rock, rooted Like a tree,” she led a chant. “We are here, standing tall, in our rightful place.”
To Jo Pearman, who came up from Apalachicola together with St. George island’s Ada Long and Jane Mitchell, it all seemed pretty clear.
“His wife’s living on over half their income. That’s bulls***,” Pearman said. “Anybody who has worked here 20 years is okay in my book.”
Mercedes and Carl Updyke, from Carrabelle, and Ted Tripp from Apalachicola, were among those who also made the trip.
“No hate, no fear, migrants are welcome here,” chanted the protestors, then switching the word to "refugees," as an occasional honking blared from passing motorists.
“Show me what democracy looks like,” one would sing out.
“This is what democracy looks like,” others chanted in reply.