SARATOGA SPRINGS — A protest critiquing the activities of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the region and across the nation brought first-time and seasoned organizers together along Broadway in a march toward Congress Park.
Organized by Lucy Totino and Anne Getz-Eidelhoch, both 20, the protest initially drew around 30 to 40 marchers at its starting point on North Broadway, but quickly grew as it approached Congress Park, drawing applause from patrons at restaurants such as the Blue Hen.
For the rookie organizers, things could not have gone better.
Then there was a bit of a snafu.
"Guys, we have to hurry because Congress Park is low-key double-booked for 7 p.m.," Getz-Eidelhoch said into her megaphone.
Already gathered at Congress Park was a much older crowd of concertgoers waiting for the band The Hot Club of Saratoga to start playing. In the middle of their soundcheck around 6:30, the protest drowned out the plucking and jamming of the band with chants of "No hate! No fear! Immigrants are welcome here!"
The band obliged, setting aside their instruments to hear what the young activists at the front of the procession had to say.
As speeches got underway, Heather McElhiney, director of the Heritage Visitor Center, said that while the scheduling of the two events was tight — one concertgoer shouted "Where's the music?" during a reading of a poem by a protestor — Congress Park was the perfect place for political discourse and evening music to take place.
"They're all permitted and allowed and everything," McElhiney said of the slight overlap. "But [the organizers] are getting more people to hear what they're saying, who, you know, might not have been here otherwise."
Meanwhile, Fazana Saleem-Ismail, a featured speaker from Guilderland whose parents immigrated to the United States from Sri Lanka, spoke about why it was important people who were willing and able showed up to the protest.
Saleem-Ismail, who also organizes birthday parties for homeless children and speaks about Islam and Islamophobia, had a bit of a tech snafu at the beginning of her speech, sharing a laugh with the other rookie organizers over a megaphone malfunction.
"Sorry everyone, I've never used a megaphone before," she said.
"I was a little reluctant to speak today, because I, myself, am not an immigrant," she continued. "However, I realized that I am blessed to be a person of privilege, and I can use my voice to help immigrants share their stories that need to be heard. That's why I'm here today."
Totino, wearing a black "Got Privilege?" shirt — a take on the famous "Got Milk?" campaign, but with a social justice twist — said that while she does not plan to run for office in the future, she may see herself as a staffer for either a candidate or for a non-profit organization.
"I don't think I would like the whole being the one under the light all the time sort of thing, but I am interested in the work that goes in behind it," said Totino, who studies policy at Syracuse University and organizes for the campus UNICEF chapter.
Getz-Eidelhoch, giddy from a successful conclusion to her first time organizing a protest, said she would like to go into immigration policy after finishing her studies at Colgate University.
Linda LeTendre, 62, has been organizing since the 70s, recalled her first protest in Potsdam to save a historic railroad station. Joining Totino and Getz-Eidelhoch's cohort of millennial and Gen-Z protestors, Letendre said she was thrilled with the youthful enthusiasm demonstrated at the protest. She was marching Sunday with several other members of her group Saratoga Peace Alliance.
"Their youth is the best part," she said. "There are two things that are going to save our souls in this country: the youth, and the fourth estate."
Maxfield Goldman, 16, underscored the importance of young people getting involved in politics at protests like this one.
"I come from a family of immigrants [Romania], so this is kind of cool, to see that people care about the cause that's relevant," Goldman said.
David LaCarte, head of the Veterans for Peace Adirondack Chapter, said that protesting, while maybe inconvenient for concertgoers and people dining al fresca along Broadway, is an important form of civic service. His group was also represented with several members.
"I'm way more proud of this than I am of anything I did [while serving] in the military," LaCarte said.
As the protest wrapped up and the band began playing, some concertgoers were irked at the delay caused by the speeches. Others, like Sara Zappi, who is originally from Argentina and now lives in Saratoga Springs, said that the juxtaposition was quintessential Spa City.
"This is what's great about Saratoga," Zappi said.