MONMOUTH — About 80 people gathered at Main Street Park in Monmouth Friday night as part of Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Concentration Camps.
Approximately 800 separate events were held Friday night internationally, most in the United States, “to shine a light on and protest conditions faced by individuals seeking asylum on our southern borders,” according to the group’s literature.
Carol Infranca and Carol Christ organized the local event.
There were six speakers, including Rep. Paul Evans (D-Monmouth) and Monmouth City Councilor Christopher Lopez.
Lopez said he was there in a personal capacity, not representing the city.
“The freedoms we take for granted are things others don’t readily have access to,” Lopez said.
Those include the right to protest and demonstrate laws you feel are unjust, he said.
“I’m under no illusion that something we do in Monmouth is going to be the thing that fully tips the scales,” Lopez said.
But it is part of something bigger.
Shelaswau Crier, a community activist and former Marion County Commissioner candidate, also spoke at the vigil.
“Hopefully this is another piece in pushing folks to take action, to learn how they can take action,” Crier said. “Gathering isn’t going to help on its own.”
She hopes attendees were able to get some encouragement from each other and feel solidarity.
“People can feel a little alone. The fact that something like this is happening around the world restores faith in humanity,” Crier said.
Major actions overcoming “horrific pieces of history haven’t happened without demonstration,” she said.
One thing people who are concerned about the situation can do is to contact their elected officials and demand action, regardless of the headlines.
“We can’t just follow the news cycle,” Crier said.
It doesn’t take a whole lot to contact representatives, she said.
“Children dying is not a partisan issue,” Crier said. “It’s not a red issue, it’s not a blue issue ... children dying is a moral issue. I definitely have family members — we didn’t vote for the same person for president, but I know that they care about people. I know that they are loving, caring people.”
She said they disagree on some things, but “we do agree that children should be treated in a humane way.”
Another guest drew a lot of attention, though he didn’t approach the microphone.
Caeser the No Drama Llama stood with the crowd and stayed after the vigil to visit and take photos with people.
His owner, Larry McCool, said issues of minority rights keep repeating themselves but with different groups. He referred to the Japanese internment camps, established during World War II. President Franklin Roosevelt enacted an executive order in response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor to inter people of Japanese descent.
He also mentioned the Civil Rights movement in relation to African-Americans.
“When (one group) is lifted up, they replaced it with a different minority,” McCool said.
Caeser is a therapy llama and typically visits schools, small care facilities and charity events.
“He draws a lot of attention,” McCool said. “I can bring him to an empty parking lot and within minutes 40 people are there. He opens doors, he opens people’s minds.”
Throughout the vigil, people stood by Caesar and pet him.
Infranca thought the vigil went well.
“For putting it together in less than a week, I was thrilled,” Infranca said. “I thought our speakers were thought-provoking and inspirational.”
She said she spent some time on the Lights for Liberty national website looking at photos and videos of other vigils.
“I was proud of the number of people standing up and speaking out against the treatment asylum seekers are facing,” Infranca said. “Seeking asylum is not against the law. You have to be on U.S. soil to apply for asylum. I think a lot of people don’t understand that.”
Infranca said this was not a “one-off” event, and that dozens of people who attended the vigil provided their contact information to be notified when the next one will be.
“That was uplifting,” she said.
For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.