New York City police on Wednesday quickly removed 24 pop-up political installations that depicted children crying in cages, but not before passersby were forced to confront their intended message about the treatment of migrant families at the Southern border.
“Brought me to my knees just now,” tweeted Tim Devane of Brooklyn, also sharing a photo of the installation along with the hashtag #NoKidsInCages.
The installations were created by ad agency Badger & Winters on behalf of RAICES, a Texas-based nonprofit that provides legal aid to immigrants and refugees. Each one showed small children curled up under foil survival blankets, confined inside chain-link cages with a #NoKidsInCages sign. The hashtag has since gone viral on social media, reigniting the conversation around the border crisis. Though visually upsetting, it was the audio component of the displays that reportedly evoked the strongest reaction — tapes of crying detained children, recorded at the border, blasting from speakers.
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In fact, the recordings were so "haunting" and "disturbing" that a Pix 11 reporter said she and her camera crew intentionally avoided capturing the audio in their television report.
The creators of the installations told media that the pieces were meant to be "an emotional, provocative, multi-sensory experience" to raise more awareness about the conditions faced by migrants, specifically migrant children, at the border.
“The litmus test of any society is how it treats children. By normalizing the detention of children in cages, we’re only going further down the path of forsaking the rights of all children,” RAICES executive director Jonathan Ryan said in a news release.
In September, a 10-year-old girl from El Salvador became the sixth child in eight months to die after being detained by border authorities. This fiscal year, U.S. border agents have apprehended more than 56,000 unaccompanied minors, according to the Washington Post. That represents an increase of 74 percent over last year.
The installations were placed in front of highly trafficked areas like Union Square, Madison Square Park, The Brooklyn Bridge entrance, as well as media organizations like Google, Buzzfeed and CNN. They were first spotted around 6 a.m. Wednesday, but were reportedly removed soon after by New York police officers. The NYPD did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the removal of the installations. It's unclear whether the individuals who placed them in the public spaces will face any penalties.