'Families against Fascism' hold protest

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BENNINGTON — A group of Bennington residents gathered on Thursday evening to protest the treatment of immigrant families by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

They gathered for about two hours at the Four Corners intersection in downtown Bennington, carrying signs that read "Where is the compassion?" "What if someone took your children away?" and "Families against Fascism."

The protestors said that they received many positive responses, but at least one person reacted by flashing a Nazi salute.

The protests were not organized or sponsored by any organization, but instead by a local mother, who asked to remain anonymous. "When you see (stuff) like that, you have to do something," she said.

Congressional Republicans distanced themselves Thursday from the Trump administration's aggressive policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border as House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republicans said they were not comfortable with family separations, which spiked dramatically after the Justice Department adopted a policy in April of referring all illegal border crossers for prosecution.

"We don't want kids to be separated from their parents," Ryan said Thursday.

Ryan claimed Thursday that the family-separation policy is being dictated by a court ruling that prevents children who enter the country illegally from being held in custody for long periods.

But House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi pushed back on that assessment, saying that President Donald Trump could "stop the practice on a dime."

She called the Trump administration's separation policy "barbaric," adding: "It has to stop."

The family separations are occurring as a result of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy for those entering the country illegally. Under the directive, families crossing the border are routinely referred for criminal prosecution. Previously, families were often sent to civil deportation proceedings, which allow children to remain with their parents.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Derek Carson can be reached at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.

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