A 3-foot by 3-foot cage with babydolls inside was placed in the center, below the stairs of the University of Georgia Arch, as hundreds of people gathered for a vigil to end human detention camps on July 12.

The event was organized by textile artist Amanda Whitsel, former Georgia House District 117 Representative Deborah Gonzalez, retired UGA professor JoBeth Allen and singer-songwriter Caroline Aiken. The Lights for Liberty vigil in Athens was part of a larger network of hundreds of vigils occurring around the country at the same time.

Gonzalez and Whitsel said they believed it was important to join people around the world and show that there’s strength in numbers.

“We needed to do something.” Gonzalez said. “You call your congress people, you call your senators and they don’t care.”

Lights for Liberty vigils in 16 other Georgia cities took place. At around 7:00 p.m., people across the country took a moment of silence for people in detention centers.

Before the event began, an altercation broke out between a counter-protester and a woman participating in the vigil. The counter-protestor, “Brother Sam,” was using a megaphone and a headset. The woman pulled off his headset and he shoved her to the ground. The police were called but no arrests were made.

Gonzalez started the vigil by emphasizing that the event was not a protest, and that they were not going to chant. “We have people dying. We have children dying. Humans do not belong in cages. That’s why we are here today,” Gonzalez said as counter-protesters attempted to talk over her.

Representing U-Lead Athens, Allen read a poem written by an Athens poet, dedicated to the children who have died at the Southern border and in U.S. custody. “Felipe, age 8. Juan, age 16” and “Wilmer, age 2,” were some of the names Allen read.

Leanne Purdum, Athens Immigrant Rights Coalition member and graduate student at UGA, spoke about the history of the situation at the border.

“This system is not new and it's not something that developed overnight by the President. It developed over decades by both major parties.” Purdum said. “It’s also true that there are things happening today that are the results of this legal system taken over by overt anti-immigrant people who write the policy.”

AIRC co-founder Beto Mendoza’s speech focused on children in Athens. “They are not in cages right now, but they are in a different cage. It’s fear,” Mendoza said. “They fear for their parents … they don’t know if they will come back home.”

Cars that beeped when driving by were matched with loud cheers by the crowd for their support. Athens-Clarke County District 5 Commissioner Tim Denson and District 9 Commissioner Ovita Thornton were in attendance.

Aiken closed the vigil with a lullaby of “Amazing Grace” as people held their candles up to the sky and sang along. The vigil came to a close after a one minute moment of silence for the children at the border.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.