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Immigration activist John Jairo of New Haven-based Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA) addresses the crowd at the Branford Lights for Liberty rally on July 12. Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
An estimated 200 turned out for a Lights for Liberty rally in Branford, one of approximately 20 across the state and among hundreds held nationwide on July 12. Kelley Fryer/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Information posted at the event shared contacts for action groups and others. Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
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Holding up lit phone screens, candles and lanterns against the dark, a crowd of about 200 came together on the Branford green at one of nearly 20 Lights for Liberty rallies lighting up across the state, and hundreds taking place across the nation, on Friday, July 12.
The national Lights for Liberty campaign was set off to highlight and protest what supporters say are inhumane conditions at the country's southern border immigration detention facilities. The night called for an end to practices of family separation and detainment of children and opposition to treatment of asylum seekers.
Organizer Rev. Sharon Gracen of Trinity Episcopal Church in Branford called it a "spiritual crisis."
"It is a crisis that anchors itself in 'me' rather than in 'we.' It is a spiritual crisis when the mentality of scarcity trumps over the reality of abundance. It is a crisis when indifference drowns compassion. It is a crisis when fear overshadows love. In a spiritual crisis, we misinterpret humanity as a collection of discreet groups that are in competition," she told the crowd.
The crowd heard passionate discussion from Branford State Representative Robin Comey (D, District 102) followed by retired State Representative Lonnie Reed. Eight-year-old Branford resident Lily McNeil read the "The New Colossus" – the famed poem inscribed at the Statue of Liberty - to cheers from the crowd.
Standing on stage with volunteers holding a painted banner of a woman wielding a sledgehammer at a border wall above the word "Resistance," immigration activist John Jairo of New Haven-based Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA) asked those in the crowd to "...be with us and work with us, hand by hand. We need people like you. We have a lot of people in Connecticut facing deportation cases."
Jairo urged people to turn out to family's case that will be heard Monday, July 15, in Hartford Superior Court.
"When a family is taken to deportation; one thing is going alone, and another is going there supported, and the judge [and] the jurors and all those agents, they see people supporting them, hundreds of people supporting them; that is what will change their minds," said Jairo.
Support is also needed for Nelson Pinos, an Ecuadorian immigrant, who has been living in sanctuary at the First United Methodist Church on the New Haven green, Jairo said.
"On the sanctuary movement, our friend Nelson Pinos has been in sanctuary for more than 19 months; because a court in Minnesota cannot make up their minds to reopen their case," said Jairo. "That person has been there 19 months, separated from his family. And it would be nice if you can visit him; talk to him; [tell him you] understand the struggle to live in house arrest because of the cruel laws of this government."
Susan Schultz, a volunteer in Nogales, Mexico and Lisa Kelly of Action Together CT also participated as speakers at the rally, where a statement from U.S. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, who could not attend, was also shared. The Rev. James Hill of Stony Creek Congregational Church read scripture and Rev. Lucy LaRocca of Zion Episcopal Church in North Branford read DeLauro's statement.
DeLauro said she will continue to work to end what she called the current government's "...blank check to continue their cruel and heartless immigration policies," stating, "I am not going to give up this fight."
In her closing remarks, Gracen prayed for those in the crowd that, "...you are able, with God's grace, to do what others claim cannot be done. And may God bless you this night as we let our light shine to overcome the dark."
The rally closed with the crowd holding up lights to the music of John Lennon's "Imagine" amplified from the stage.
"It was wonderful to see the lights coming on," Gracen told Zip06/The Sound. "It was just incredible."
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