90-year-old Ethel Kennedy is joining Alec Baldwin, Evan Rachel Wood, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and 50 members of her famous family, in a hunger strike to protest President Trump’s “zero-policy” immigration policy.
According to a story published Tuesday by the Boston Globe, the widow of Robert Kennedy is participating in the mass fast which began on Saturday at noon in McAllen, Texas. It involves a person fasting for 24 hours and making a donation in the amount they otherwise would have spent on food to the non-profit Break Bread Not Families. Afterward, they “pass it forward” to at least two other people until the 24-day period is over.
“The government has no comprehensive way of reuniting immigrant families,” organizer Kerry Kennedy tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “We have heard stories of parents being deported and children who have re-crossed the border alone or distributed to 15 different states. A lawyer told us that one facility is relying on family photos to reunite families.”
The strike also addresses the cage-like conditions described by the media, which have been compared to internment camps. Kerry says the Trump administration hasn’t responded to the hunger strike, however, within 24 hours of its launch, the movement gained support from Hollywood, politicians, and even children.
“My 6-year-old nephew is participating by sacrificing video games and sugar for 24 hours,” Kerry says. “We want people to get involved in a way that feels right for them. There’s a place for everyone.”
Last week, Trump signed an executive order which stopped the separation of families at the border unless there is a concern for the child’s welfare, reported CNN. The order includes finding homes for families and prioritizing their legal process. However, the question of how to unify families that were previously separated remains challenging.
On Saturday, Homeland Security released a statement explaining there is “a process established to ensure that family members know the location of their children and have regular communication after separation to ensure that those adults who are subject to removal are reunited with their children for the purposes of removal. The United States government knows the location of all children in its custody and is working to reunite them with their families.”
However, in a statement to the Globe, Ethel said it’s “not a time to declare victory and go home.” She added, “Generations of Americans did not toil and sacrifice to build a country where children and their parents are placed in cages to advance a cynical political agenda.”
According to Sharman Apt Russell, author of the forthcoming book Within Our Grasp: Feeding the World’s Children for a Better and Greener Future, hunger strikes have historically lasted much longer than 24 hours, sometimes to the point of death, and were utilized by suffragists, prisoners, and Mohandas Gandhi.
“Hunger strikes are intended to shame others because they deny the protester the most basic human need,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “In the middle ages, the Irish staged hunger strikes on the doorsteps of their enemies and the homeowners would be blamed for any resulting deaths.”
Ethel’s fast is an example of “baton fasting,” and is more symbolic than harmful with its success dependent on the compassion of others. “It’s difficult to know whether this strike will affect the current policies,” says Russell. “However, it creates an alliance with the oppressed group and contributes collectively to overall efforts.”
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