Staff is not allowed to talk to us, but one woman was clearly eager to give us this message. She waited for a while behind another car so she could stealthily drive by the curb and nervously whisper, “What goes on inside there….horrible. Horrible.” This was the most unsettling moment of the day; a day in which we were yelled at, flipped off, and threatened with arrest.
Yet, it was also a day of children jumping high to see us over the fence, a day of teens returning my “dabbing” (oh, how I would have mortified my own children), and of girls making heart signs at us. It was a day of meeting dedicated, interesting, and kind protesters (and thankfully, ones with a sense of humor!). It was a day of heat and humidity, but also a day of crisp breezes and rustling palm trees.
The reaction of the kids was definitely the highlight of the day. We usually stand in front of the main gate of the center. Occasionally, we walk down the road a bit to stand across the street from the field where the kids play outdoors. The girls in the morning were the most excited to see us. They quickly began waving, making hand hearts, and jumping. The boys, later in the day, were more subdued. The first group of boys we saw were eerily quiet, shouting only “fuero” as their ball slid out of bounds. The boys who were not engaged in the game waved, gave us thumbs up, and flashed “hang ten” signs with their hands.
In the afternoon, I walked down to the field alone. I was standing with my sign, “No Estas Solo.” These teens were even quieter and did not react much when they saw me. At one point, I checked my email on my phone and even though I heard the kids shouting a bit, given I hardly understand Spanish anymore, I was not really listening to them. Finally, one of the teens yelled, “Hey! No Estas Solo!” Realizing this was what was written on my sign, I looked up. The kids started waving at me. I laughed and “dabbed.” This made a couple of them laugh at me and they dabbed back. After this brief exchange, they were quiet again.
The three low points of the day came near the end.
The first was the afternoon security guard. Despite the director of security assuring us in the morning that we had a right to stand where we were, one of the afternoon shift guards called the police on us twice and threatened us with arrest. While the police did show up the first time he called, after about 10 minutes of arguing with him, they left without even talking to us. They never even showed up the second time.
The second was the driver who pulled over to the side of the road and began yelling at us and arguing with Josh Rubin, the organizer of this effort. After he left, came back again, yelled some more, and left again, the gate security (different from the guard who wanted us arrested) came over and asked us if we knew him. When we explained what had happened, he assured us he would ask the man to leave if he showed up again.
The third low point was the most rattling. Haunting, actually. It is not just the words she spoke, but how she said them. It was the fear in her eyes as she looked around to see if anyone was watching her talk to us. It was her desperation that we get out her message, “What goes on inside there….horrible. Horrible.”
And is why I go back again tomorrow.