Well before dawn last Friday morning, Karyn Alzayer snuck a group of miniature cages into Boston’s Public Garden via “a couple different vehicles.” The Malden artist had fashioned the tiny jails from PVC pipe frames wrapped in chicken wire. She says, “It was still very dark out, somewhere between 2 and 3:30 in the morning.”

She was aware of how people dress up the bronze “Make Way for Ducklings” statues by Nancy Schon, inspired by Robert McCloskey’s 1941 Caldecott Medal-winning children’s book, putting the baby ducks in bonnets for Easter or in Red Sox jerseys when the professional baseball team is doing swell. “I’ve loved and enjoyed that watching that whimsy when it does happen,” Alzayer says.

The "Make Way for Ducklings" statues in Boston's Public Garden dressed up in "Pussy Hats" for the "Boston Women's March," Jan. 21, 2017. (Greg Cook)
The “Make Way for Ducklings” statues in Boston’s Public Garden dressed up in “Pussy Hats” for the “Boston Women’s March,” Jan. 21, 2017. (Greg Cook)

On Aug. 2, she put mini mylar blankets on the bronze birds and set the cages over them—evoking the imprisonment of migrants by the U.S. Immigrant and Customs Enforcement under the Trump Administration.

“This story really is about an immigrant family. What would happen to them if they came now?” Alzayer says. In “Make Way for Ducklings,” they’re fed and given a police escort to their new Boston home. “I don’t think it would be the same.”

“Since I’m an artist, this is a means I have to speak out about this,” says Alzayer, a henna artist who also does fine art inspired by henna designs. She lived in Everett for a dozen years before moving to Malden last November. She has founded a nonprofit called Integral Arts to host an art walk in the Everett in October.

Karyn Alzayer caged the "Make Way for Ducklings" statues In Boston's Public Garden to protest abuse of immigrants, Aug. 2, 2019. (Photo: Daud Alzayer)
Karyn Alzayer caged the “Make Way for Ducklings” statues In Boston’s Public Garden to protest abuse of immigrants, Aug. 2, 2019. (Photo: Daud Alzayer)

“I think it’s really important for us to be talking about how we’re treating people at our southern border,” Alzayer says. “We’re hearing reports of people not getting the food and water they should have. We should not be treating people this way regardless of whether they came legally or illegally. This is not a way to treat another human. … This is being done to people at our southern border in our name with our tax dollars.”

Alzayer says, “I went back around 6:30 or 7 to see if it was still there. There was no trace of anything. They had already been removed.”

WGBH reported that “the cages were removed by a homeless man who lives in the park and often helps clean statues.”

Alzayer saw this as a hopeful sign for our nation: “We as a society can quickly decide to free someone. We can take these cages down. … This is something we can do if we chose to put our minds to that.”

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