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Protesters maintain vigil on Gainesville corner in support of immigrants
Group has gathered 3 nights running, endured angry reaction from some
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Arturo Adame held his homemade sign up high Saturday evening alone on the side of Jesse Jewell Parkway.

Cars and trucks honked at him as they whizzed by or yelled remarks like “pay for the wall” and “America” at him, but 26-year-old Adame didn’t care.

He lives, works and wants to stay in Gainesville. His sign read “Trump Can’t Deport Us All” in green, red and white lettering resembling the Mexican flag. He said it would stay up until at least midnight Saturday, or until he is told to take it down.

“I want to be the last one standing,” he said.

While most of the evening he spent by himself at the corner of the busy intersection, by 8:30 p.m. about 15 other people had joined him, each with their own sign and reason for being there.

The group began gathering Thursday night at Jesse Jewell and E.E. Butler parkways after the “Day Without Immigrants” and has been there every night since.

“We are a nation founded on immigrants,” said Michelle Sanchez Jones, a married mother of three.

She said she was standing in solidarity with the Latino community and was there for better or worse. That included a man who yelled at the protesters and was pulled over by law enforcement, and another in a truck waving an American flag at them. Yet others who passed were waving and smiling in their direction.

Jones held a sign with the words “Immigrants Make America Great” in red, white and blue letters as she stood beside the road. She said her goal was to try and show the solution to the problem isn’t kicking people out who have no better option.

She also applauded the Gainesville Police Department for its support for the group gathered on the corner.

“We are lucky that we have (a police department) that is serving the people,” said Jones, who lives in Flowery Branch.

Gabriella Gonzalez wanted to participate in the Day Without Immigrants protest Thursday and began on the corner by herself. She was surprised by how people showed up to stand with her.

“I made a spontaneous decision to go stand out there by myself, and shared multiple posts that if people would like to join me, they were welcome to,” Gonzalez said.

“Especially the amount of backlash I got when I was standing alone, I didn’t think people would want to tolerate it, but they handled it well.”

Gonzalez said she endured obscene gestures and cursing, and was told to go home or back to Mexico.

”This one guy asked what I was doing and I told him, ‘Making a statement.’ He told me ‘I suggest you go make it elsewhere,’” she said.

Gonzalez’s friend, Stephanie Blanco, was with her.

“We also had one guy pull down the window and make a gun out of his fist and pointed at each one of us pretending to shoot us. I responded to the negativity just by telling people ‘God bless you’ and just nodding my head,” Blanco said.

“We are just there to show that us Hispanics stand together and we are there to make our voices be heard, so we all just ignored the ignorance, and kept our head held high.”

Gonzalez estimated about 50 people of all races came out on Thursday night, and more on Friday.

“Everything that’s been going on with the whole immigration acts and coming from a family of immigrants, it hurts me to see my friends and family worry so much about being separated, so I thought why not go out there and make my voice be heard,” said Blanco, a Lanier Technical College student.

“Many of the Hispanic young adults’ parents fear going out there and protesting. They are kept silent, but us as a Hispanic community will not.”