On Tuesday evening, the Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Committee held an “Immigration Vigil” outside the Klamath County Government Center. The demonstration was intended to “bear witness to the injustice that is happening in ICE detention facilities” and to “honor those who have died in ICE custody,” a press release for the event said. This event comes after national news reports about inhumane conditions at migrant detention camps at the border of the United States and Mexico.
“It’s really important to show solidarity and be action-oriented toward different social causes,” said Franny Howe, an organizer of the event. Howe expected about 35 attendees; at the end of the vigil, there were about 80 people who showed up in support.
Signs for compassion
Some people carried signs to display a message, including: “Close the Camps,” “Kindness Compassion in Klamath Falls” and a quote from Emma Lazarus’ sonnet “The New Colossus,” which is featured on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty — ”Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Bonnie Hutchinson, an attendee of the vigil, carried a sign that said “Jesus loves all children.”
“Those who believe in Jesus Christ need to behave how he would be,” Hutchinson said. “He loves all people, not just certain ones.”
The vigil attendees, led by Bonnie Hay, sang “We Shall Overcome,” “Where You Go” and “Somos El Barco.” Howe led the group in a prayer, and they had three minutes of silence.
The event was met with about six protesters, who gathered across the street outside the Klamath County Circuit Court. One man carried an American flag, yelling “Build that wall,” and “We made our nation, go make yours.”
“What would these people do if all of the sudden they had to leave? Would someone let them in, after all of this?” Christina Pasillas, a vigil attendee, said. “I know I would. I would.”
David Hedelman, a pastor at the United Church of Christ and a speaker at the event said it is important the progressive branch of Christianity shows support for immigrants.
“Without speaking for the denomination, and not even necessarily for my own congregation, what I would say is that the white supremacist wing of Evangelicalism has co-opted and stolen Christianity,” Hedelman said. “I believe it’s really important for progressive Christianity to have a voice.”
Other people voiced that showing up and standing together against the detention camps is essential, though they would like to be able to do more.
“Being confronted with really horrific stories about awful things happening to children, it really does feel like the bare minimum you can do is going ‘We should stop that!’,” said Nac Payne, an attendee. “This is a vigil, not a rally, and we are going to take the time to mourn the people that this has already harmed. The mood is that we are acknowledging this awful thing that is happening.”