Prince William, Manassas Residents Participate in Lights for Liberty Vigil for Immigrant Children at the Border

| July 17, 2019 | 0 Comments | Community, News

The Lazer family holds a sign quoting Bible passage ‘Matthew 25:35.”

A few hundred of people gathered at the “Lights for Liberty” rally and vigil at the Harris Pavilion, in Manassas, Friday evening. They stood in protest of the dismal conditions of immigrant children being held at detention centers at the U.S./Mexico border and the separation of immigrant families.

According to various reports, detention centers are overcrowded and children are using tin foil as blankets. They are often times sleeping on floors and they have limited access to bathing and hygiene products. Older children have been taking care of toddlers, and young children have been deprived of hugs and affection.

In addition, children are being separated from their relatives.

As Lights for Liberty rallies were being held simultaneously in cities around the country, Friday, Prince William County Democratic Party, specifically the Democratic Immigrant Caucus, organized a local rally.

The event attracted a diverse group of people of varying ages, races and ethnicities. Many were core members of the Democratic Party and the local chapter of the politically progressive Indivisible group. Some were residents moved by the cause, who came to show their support.

Prince William teachers Christy and Preston Lazer attended the rally with their two young sons. Christy said a friend had asked her to attend the D.C. rally but then heard there was a vigil in Manassas as well. She felt it was important for them to attend as a family.

People listen to the speeches from outside the pavilion while children play.

“If I don’t stand here I feel it’s almost like saying what is happening is okay,” Christy said.

She said they talk to their children, and they do understand. One night, her son Nicholas, 7-years-old, said “I’m thankful that I get to live here in this house with my mom and dad instead of in cages,” said Christy.

“You would think ending the brutal treatment of children and families would help to make America great again,” her husband Preston said.

The Muzyk twins, 5-years-old, take part in activism with their mother, holding home-made signs.

Cher Muzyk of Nokesville has been including her 5-year-old twins when speaking out about the treatment of children in detention centers since she attended another Manassas rally last year.

Friday, her children held self-made signs. One showed a “mean man” towering over kids behind bars. Another saying “no kids in cages.”

At the rally, many elected leaders and members of the Prince William Democratic Party spoke about their own objections to the state of the detention centers, and about how the United States needs to end racism and divisiveness.

Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D-31st) said that she is not for open borders, but she is against the treatment of children seeking refuge. She visited a detention center with her daughter, who asked, why the children – many from Central America, who looked like her- were in cages. “We are not dogs. We are not animals,” Guzman said her 9-year-old daughter remarked at the time.

The delegate said her constituents have been calling, telling her that they have been pulled over to have their immigration status checked. She recommended everyone vote for Joshua King for Sheriff if they are concerned about ICE’s cooperation with the Prince William Police.

Sen. Jeremy McPike stands with attendees at Lights for Liberty under the Harris Pavilion.

“Immigration makes America great and we don’t need the president to tell us we need to make America greater!” she said.

Other Democratic leaders offered similar sentiments.

Virginia State Senator Jeremy McPike (D-29th) said the United States can no longer call itself the greatest nation in the world while we commit these injustices against our brothers and sisters.

Mansimran Kahlon, Democratic candidate for the District 13 Virginia House of Delegates in 2017, said there are people like him who are “heirs to those who went through those atrocities,” in other countries. He feels this an atrocity the United States is perpetrating in our time.

Steve Raiken, a Jewish resident whose relatives were in a Nazi-run concentration camp with Ann Frank and her sister, compared the detention centers to those concentration camps. He noted that the first thing the Nazis did was to separate families.

Lisa Stevens talks to the crowd at Lights for Liberty Manassas.

“It’s right out of the Hitler playbook,” Raikin said.

African American resident Aaron Edmond read a poem by international award-winning poet Warsan Shire. Shire’s poetry is based upon her own experiences as well as people she knows. She often writes about immigrants, refugees and other marginalized people.

Edmond said he chose to read the poem to “humanize” the experience and get away from the “toxic rhetoric” often heard in debates.

Kenny Boddye, the Democratic candidate for Occoquan Supervisor, told Bristow Beat that he thought the message of the rally was America needs to face its dark history, and change its course.

“I think that as Americans and Virginias we have to face the fact that we have a very complex history with people our society has considered as ‘others,’ whether it’s slavery or our history in our country and county with immigrants and 287g. We have a responsibility to confront these past sins and to make amends for them. As the most diverse county in Virginia, we have to embrace our diversity, not run from it,” said Boddye.

Children dancing troupe of Salay Virginia USA after performing at Lights for Liberty, Friday.

Jennifer Romero is a community organizer with CASA. She explained to Bristow Beat that as Manassas and Prince William have a large immigrant community, real Virginia families are directly affected by these immigration policies.

She told a story of a mother who recently came to Northern Virginia from Honduras and was separated with her infant child at the border. Fortunately for her, they were reunited in time for Mother’s Day. She has still yet to reunite with her 3-year-old son who came to the country with her father.

Romero said that CASA advocates for non-documented immigrants, and asylum seekers, and have expanded its outreach beyond Central Americans and other Latinos to all immigrants in need of assistance.

Indivisible member Lisa Stevens also took the mic. She alleges the treatment of innocent children is in violation of the UN Human Rights amendment of 1948 passed after the atrocities of World War II.

“Contact your lawmakers and vote. November 5th this year, November 3rd next year,” she said.

At twilight the rally turns to a candlelit vigil.

Around the time that it began to get dark and attendees began lighting candles, a few religious leaders condemned the treatment of children and families at the border. They included Rev. Cozy Bailey of the First Mount Zion Baptist Church in Dumfries, who is also President of the Prince William Chapter of the NAACP.

Elizabet Michaelsen, one of the organizers, likened the cause to issues she protested in the 60s. She reminded people they can easily visit Washington to speak with their representatives.

“They are not our leaders. They are our representatives,” she said, before leading people in the song “We shall not be moved.”

“Remember, remember, the 5th of November. Vote them out!”

Though not everyone in the area is in agreement with the cause, the rally remained peaceful inside and around the pavilion.

© 2019, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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