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“Day Without Immigrants”: The Whisper That Turned Into A Roar

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Restaurants, businesses, and schools in Chicago, Austin, San Francisco, Detroit, New York City, Washington D.C., Charlotte and several other US cities got “a taste of life without immigrants” during yesterday’s #DayWithoutImmigrants strike and protests.

Some businesses and restaurants closed voluntarily in solidarity with their immigrant workforce. The ones that decided to stay open scrambled to push out already-scaled back menus:

While some popular restaurants —  Bad Saint, Daikaya and Jaleo — shut down entirely, others, like Meridian Pint and Smoke & Barrel, announced they would close their kitchens and let customers bring in their own food.

Other restaurants operated on a limited menu. The owners of Boundary Stone in Northeast D.C., said they would man the kitchen themselves, but only serve a few items and for a shorter period of time than usual.

At Bar Pilar, Miller, who is both head chef and an investor in the restaurant, served a limited menu of Latino-inspired dishes that he made himself, with help from friends. “The idea is for us to feel the pain too,” he said.

Whether to close shop or scramble to stay open, how much food to serve and whether to pay staff were difficult decisions for business owners, many of whom said in interviews that they wanted to show their support but were also worried about the loss of business.

El Chucho owner Jackie Greenbaum said she made the decision not to serve any food rather than try to cook it herself. “It seemed the point was better made [to say]: we can’t operate without this segment of the population, who are our friends, our family, and our staff,” she said.

“We stand 100% behind our employees — whether they are immigrants or born in America, back of house or front of house,”  wrote New York City’s Blue Ribbon restaurant group, which closed a majority of its locations in solidarity.

“When employees who haven’t missed a day of work in nearly 25 years come to you and ask for a day off to march against injustice, the answer is easy.”

Schools and construction sites felt the absences, too. Huffington Post reports that one Austin, Texas teacher in a heavily-Latino area had only four out of her 26 students come to school. “At times during the day, she taught only one student.” In Palm Beach, Florida, “hundreds, possibly thousands” of children skipped school.

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, up to 4,200 students are estimated to have skipped school.

“Work slowed to a crawl at the construction site of a 17-story office tower and several apartment buildings in downtown Raleigh’s Warehouse District,” reports the News & Observer, “because most of the subcontractor crews didn’t come to work, said Scott McGloin, project superintendent for Clancy & Theys Construction Co.”

In Massachusetts, the Davis Museum at Wellesley College “took down or covered all work created or donated by immigrants…instead, curators draped black cloth over cases, and lined the walls with labels that said ‘Created by an immigrant'”:

“We have removed or cloaked these works to demonstrate symbolically what the Davis Museum would look like without their contributions to our collections and to Wellesley College, and to thereby honor their many invaluable gifts,” the museum said.

One of the main works missing is the portrait of George Washington.

For some days before the strike, curious onlookers were trying to pin down the organizers of the action, but it appears to have been a purely organic movement. And from the look of it, what started as a whisper turned into a roar.