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Community holds vigil for immigrant children

By John Popham, Rome News-Tribune. Link to story: http://bit.ly/TYBOHVigil

“This town isn’t full of racism, hatred and bigotry,” said Jessie Reed of Turn Your Back on Hate. “Don’t get me wrong. They are here, they are loud, but they are not all there is.”

Reed was talking to the 50-100 people gathered on the lawn in front of the Joint Law Enforcement Center on Friday night who were holding a candlelight vigil for the seven children who, according to the ACLU website, died in detention centers along the United States border or shortly thereafter.

Oralia Limon Caldera, board member of Romanos Unidos, read the names, ages and reported causes of death of each of the children. The kids were as old as 16 and as young as 2 who were living, breathing children with a heartbeat, she said.

“We all may worship differently, go through different walks of life, but we are here together to love the same,” she said.

Reed offered several calls of action throughout the night by providing flyers with information on how those at the vigil can begin to make a difference.

The flyers listed several organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union and The Young Center that are accepting donations to go towards fighting for young migrant children’s rights.

“We can keep coming back here with our candles, but nothing will get done unless we act,” she said.

Father Jon Trapp, another speaker at Friday night’s vigil, started off his speech by reading Leviticus 19:33-34. The verse states that foreigners are to be welcomed among God’s people, he said, because at one point in time everyone who now calls themselves an American was a foreigner.

“It’s time to call the current administration’s policies for what they are, sin,” he said.City Commissioner Wendy Davis passed out candles she brought to participants who did not have any. The rest of the crowd listened quietly from their chairs or blankets, candles in hand, while some held signs during the vigil.

One of these onlookers was Jesse Burnette who held a sign that said “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy on us.” Burnette said he was attending because he is morally opposed to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and wants to show that there are progressives in the church.

The vigil goers were joined by Rome Police officers who were standing around the edges of the crowd as a security precaution. Reed said due to inflammatory comments on Facebook the police agreed to stand guard during the vigil to ensure everything went smoothly. Reed, however, did not expect any problems.

“People are much braver behind a computer,” she said.

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