Protestors at Lights for Liberty Rally Voice Support for Immigrants

Get daily Westford text alerts by subscribing here.

Protesters gathered on July 12 in the Westford Common to denounce the inhumane conditions faced by migrants in border facilities. The rally was part of a nationwide push called Lights for Liberty. The event included speeches presented by state Senators Ed Kennedy and Jamie Eldridge, teacher Emily Gilstrap who organized the event, and Rev. Kathleen Hepler, interim minister at First Parish Church United.

Many protesters were asked to answer the question “I am here because..?” Below are the reflections of a few of those protesters.

[Editor’s note: Unnati Bhat, volunteer junior reporter from WestfordCAT, spoke with attendees of all ages and backgrounds to get their perspectives on the cause.]

Kathy Fitzpatrick

Why do you think this is happening and continues to happen?
The Treatment of the families?
Because people have no conscious, they have no morality. No sane person would think this is okay.

What do you think must be done to find a solution, or for more people in our administration to take more action in a positive direction?
I think first of all they should send a lot of judges down there so they can process the cases. They should guarantee humane situations, especially for the children.

Kathy Bruff (Chelmsford residen)

How do you think Lights for Liberty can continue to spread their message in a way that attracts all types of people and more people?

Well, I think what you’re doing here tonight is a great idea, and just keep in touch with everybody who’s come, there is somebody circulating a list to get sign-ups, you know and let them know there are other things going on. [Continue reading below]

ABOVE – Lights for Liberty organizer Emily Gilstrap [right] tells WestfordCAT volunteer reporter Unnati Bhat why she thinks the current Administration is treating immigrants inhumanely.

Mary Gardner

Why is it so important to rally and protest for this cause?
Because this is completely inhumane, what our government and our name, with our money is doing to children and families. And we can’t be like Nazi Germany, and just let it happen quietly, we’ve got to find ways to do whatever we can to stop it.

Mary Gardner tells a reporter why she participated in the Lights for Liberty rally. PHOTO BY VAISHALI HEGDE

Scott Richards

Why do you think this is happening and continues to happen?
That’s a tough question to answer. Cultural forgetfulness I guess. And you know it’s a lot of authoritarians, like to basically blame problems for disadvantaged people, and redirect anger towards them when the anger should actually be going towards cultural inequities.

What do you think must be done to find a solution, or for more people in our administration to take action in a more positive direction?
I think basically every member of Congress right now, if they’re not like making this front and center, like 24/7, then it’s just inexcusable. They need to really be like hammering this at all times, we can’t forget about this. You know, what part of never again do you not understand?

Can this behavior be justified at all? Why or why not.
No.

How can Lights for Liberty continue to spread their message in a way that attracts more and all types of people?
Just keep plugging at it, make sure that it stays in the news.

Why do you think it’s so important to rally and protest for this cause?
We need to show people that this is not acceptable, that we’re not just going to just let it lie, it’s not okay. You know, we‘re not going to have this on our watch.

Scott Richards reflects on why he attended the Lights for Liberty rally with a WestfordCAT reporter. PHOTO BY VAISHALI HEGDE

Liz Cardenas

Why do you think this is happening and continues to happen?
Let’s see, this goes a long way back through our history. The United States was founded on injustice, and we haven’t seemed to be able to rectify it yet. So that’s why this continues to happen, as long as our system is unjust, you know people will continue to be harmed.

What do you think must be done to work toward a solution, or cause our administration to take action in the right direction?
As far as solutions, I mean I’m sure there’s a lot of different ways you could go about it, I mean stop separating families. You can stop detaining people unjustly, and illegally because that’s really what this is. The administration is playing around with the legalities to try to justify what they’re doing, so we can stop doing those things, for one. And then, you know make it easier for people to become citizens once they do come here, or make it a lot easier for them to attain asylum or even get a hearing because that’s what a lot of people are doing right now. They’re trying to even obtain a hearing, and that’s not happening yet.

Can this behavior be justified at all? Why or why not.
No. No, just as a human rights issue, it violates so many different — not only international law, but US law, and as human beings, we just shouldn’t be doing this to one another. So, no there’s no justification for it.

How can Lights for Liberty continue to spread their message in a way that attracts all types of people, and gains traction for it?
I think people need to be having conversations, starting with their families, especially those who support the administration, who voted for the administration. It’s hard to have those conversations, but they need to happen. And you know, social media is obviously a good way to spread the word about the work the organizations are doing as well, so they could keep that up too.

Why is it so important to rally and protest for this cause?
I mean like we were saying about, raising awareness, that’s another way to do it, to let people know we don’t think this is okay, and we shouldn’t be sitting on the sidelines just watching it happen. Because if we do that, that means we’re complicit in it, and it means that we think it’s okay too. So, you know, if you’re against human rights being violated you should be out here with us.

Liz Cardenas (left) was one of about 150 who attended the Lights for Liberty rally on the Westford Common on July 14. PHOTO BY VAISHALI HEGDE

Jessie Valentine

Why do you think this is happening and continues to happen?
Is this being the immigrants?
Yes, the immigrants, and them in captivity and their situation.
I think that’s a very complex question, but what’s striking to me is that I think we need to really get to the root of the problem and it’s a lot deeper than just dealing with what we do with them when they’re here. And obviously we’re willfully unprepared for this situation…We need to work on improving the conditions for people who find themselves here, but we need to get to the root of the problem and find out why they’re here in the first place, and figure out how to address that.

What do you think must be done to work towards a solution, or cause our administration to take more action?
I don’t really have an answer for that. That’s why I’m here, hopefully, to get some more information about what action can be taken.

Do you think this behavior can be justified? Why or why not?
I don’t think that the way we’re treating people is humane, so no I don’t think it can be justified. I think that they’re probably a lot of people that have good intentions that don’t have a lot of resources available and don’t know a better way to deal with it, but that’s still no excuse for the way that people are being treated.

How do you think Lights for Liberty can continue to spread their message in a way that attracts more and all types of people?
You know what, I know that personally what I’m looking forward to today is not just the spreading of the message, but perhaps the introduction of some solutions. I want action items, and I’m hoping that the education piece will be attractive to people.

Why do you think it’s important to rally and protest for this cause?
Because, if nobody makes a noise about it, nothing’s going to change.

Prachi Jhawar, 18

What do you think must be done to work towards a solution, or cause our administration to take more action?
I think our administration needs to take less action, in the sense that they need to stop these deportations, they need to stop actually having these ICE raids, like there are supposed to be raids on many different cities on Sunday (July 14th), and that’s concerning and troubling because you’re uprooting a group of people, many of whom were brought here as little children and don’t know anything else besides the United States, which is a problem. On top of that too, we need to find more viable ways to citizenship. We need to reinstate DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] and allow DACA recipients, or “dreamers” to be able to have a viable path to citizenship so that they are not afraid, they’re not going to be anxious and stressed out about the fact that they might be uprooted from a country that they’re only known their whole entire lives.

Can this behavior can be justified at all? Why or why not?
I mean, I really don’t think that these camps can be justified at all, especially since their capacities are being overfilled by over two times or three times, not giving people soap? That’s just being inhumane at this point. You give- okay, even though I’m not really the biggest fan of the way we treat prisoners as a whole, prisoners are given soap, like people who have murdered other people are given better conditions than people seeking asylum from very awful regimes that are taking away their human rights and forcing them to flee everything that they know. It’s completely inhumane to treat people like that. It violates every singles person’s basic human rights to decency. I just really don’t get it, that’s all, I think it’s inhumane.

Why is it so important to rally and protest for Lights of Liberty and this cause?
I mean, there’s always that poem I think of when we talk about the holocaust in school; If not me, who? If not now, when? There’s also the one where they came for this group of people, and then they came for me and there was no one to help me. This is just about helping your fellow human beings.