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Terry Cowgill
Sheffield residents were among the attendees of the Lights for Liberty vigil. From left, selectboard chair Rene Wood, Anita Brown and Rick Brown, a member of the Democratic Town Committee.

Protesters shine ‘Lights for Liberty’ on Trump immigration policies

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By Sunday, Jul 14, 2019 News 14

Pittsfield — They came from near and far to protest the treatment of migrant refugees at the border. There were politicians and teachers, young people and oldsters alike. Some were immigrants themselves.

About 200 people turned out at Park Square to take part in a Lights for Liberty vigil Friday night July 12. After the speakers, attendees took part in a “silent vigil for all those held in US detention camps to bring light to the darkness of the Trump administration’s horrific policies,” to quote the vigil’s website.

Protestors of Trump’s concentration camps for immigrants on the southern border gather at Park Square in Pittsfield. Photo; Terry Cowgill

Part of approximately 700 events across the nation and anchored by a large vigil on Lafayette Square near the White House in Washington, the Pittsfield event featured two elected state officials, immigration advocates, a clergyman, an immigrant family — and of course, rank-and-file residents of Berkshire County and beyond.

Before the speakers even got started, a contingent of about 50 teen campers from the progressive Camp Kinderland in Tolland, Mass., walked across the green, set up shop in front of the Civil War monument and fired up the adults with lively chants: “Close the camps down”; “Immigration, not separation”; “Burn ICE”; “These cages are outrageous.”

See video below of signing and chanting at the Lights for Liberty vigil Friday in Pittsfield:

The chants, the ubiquitous signs and the event itself were focused on the Trump administration’s policies of the detention of refugees at the border, its family separation policy (ostensibly discontinued) designed to serve as a deterrent to future migrant families seeking asylum and the practice of putting children and families in wire mesh compartments or cages — often in unsanitary conditions.

“Friends, we face a time when fascists and white supremicists and Neo-Nazis are on the rise and they’re getting encouragement from the highest places and we cannot be silent,” said Rev. Ralph Howe of the United Methodist Church in Pittsfield. “They feed on fear and hatred and punishment of the most marginalized in our society.”

State Sen. Adam Hinds addresses the demonstrators gathered in Park Square in Pittsfield, Mass. photo : Terry Cowgill

“The energy in downtown Pittsfield is electric,” added state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield). ‘We need to take this energy and put it to good use.”

Sandra Goldstein of Camp Kinderland, which was founded by immigrants and Jewish activists in the 1920s and is well known for its progressive activism, said her campers, most of whom are between the ages of 14 and 16, “are learning to make change in the world.”

“They have expressed how lucky they are — and how guilty they are knowing there are children in cages at the border,” Goldstein said, speaking, like everyone else, into a bullhorn provided by the Pittsfield Police Department.

Maria, an immigrant from El Salvador, told the demonstrators of the plight of immigrants under the current regime. To her right, holding the sign ‘I don’t belong in a cage’, is her daughter. Photo: Terry Cowgill

Dan Rafterty, co-chair of the Berkshire Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America observed the crowd and noted that, “We have some comrades here and some new faces.”

“It is our belief that those who sacrifice everything to come here … should be able to live without fear, without terror,” Raftery added.

But an immigrant who identified herself only as Maria stole the show. See video below of speeches given by attendees. Fast forward to 12:30 to see Maria’s talk:

Maria and her husband, both from El Salvador, have lived in Pittsfield for 19 years but had lived briefly in the city as students while her husband was directing a program for immigrants. They returned to their native land after the program was completed but came back to Pittsfield after a few years “because of how we felt the first time we were here, how welcome we were.”

“In all the years I’ve been in Pittsfield, I never felt like anybody is not welcoming here,” said Maria, who had her young daughter by her side and added that she and her family are in the country legally. Still, even if you have papers and are a naturalized citizen, it can be frightening.

“Some people are afraid to come and show their faces because they feel vulnerable. We are here legally we have papers to be here but I feel vulnerable sometimes,” Maria said, her voice cracking with emotion. “You know, I have a child who was born here, but as immigrants — the way we look, the way we sound — sometimes we feel scared because even if we’re here as citizens, I feel like anything can happen to us because of the way we sound or the way we look.”

Eleanore Velez, admissions counselor and coordinator of the Multicultural Center at Berkshire Community College, also spoke (see video at the bottom of this page). So did state Sen. Adam Hinds (D-Pittsfield). See the video below of his speech:

The event was sponsored by Indivisible Pittsfield, Greylock Together, Four Freedoms Coalition, Berkshire Democratic Brigades and Berkshire Citizens for Peace and Justice.

See below for additional photos from the demonstration:

Eleanore Velez, admissions counselor and coordinator of the Multicultural Center at Berkshire Community College, speaks below (Facebook video courtesy Four Freedoms Coalition):

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14 Comments   Add Comment

  1. W.C. says:

    What part of “illegal” don’t you understand?

    1. Sage Radachowsky says:

      What part of “we are all humans on the planet Earth” don’t you understand?

      1. John says:

        There is a perfectly legal way to come to the USA for a very long time now. Running across the boarder is illegal. Funny how democrats state “no one is above the law”, but then find it perfectly fine to break the law when it comes to their agenda.
        This is sadly a Democrat tactic to increase Democrat vote numbers.

        Did you not study in school the legal process to immigrate to the USA, or is that now forgotten?

    2. Housatonian says:

      What part of UNDOCUMENTED, REFUGEES, ASYLUM SEEKERS don’t YOU understand..you seem to understand hate pretty well!

      1. John says:

        Simply follow the law

  2. Chris Thomas says:

    Today’s illegal immigrants = tomorrow’s dem voters. It’s more about power than human rights…who has it and who doesn’t. And if we don’t have it, how do we get it? Increase our voter base!

    Oh, and about those “cages”… built under BO’s watch. Where was all the outrage 3 years ago? The term “political lemmings” comes to mind.

    1. Shawn G. says:

      Is that why you want to keep them out? To preserve your voter base?

      1. Chris Thomas says:

        To quote W.C…. What part of “illegal” don’t you understand? Would welcome all LEGAL immigrants with open arms.

        Are dems counting on the criminal element to save their party? Open borders is the answer, huh?


  3. W.C. says:

    Shame on the Pittsfield Police Dept. providing bullhorns at tax payer expense and not supporting ICE.

    1. Housatonian says:

      Shame on you…supporting kids being ripped away from their parents and put in concentration camps..8 have DIED..many have been raped by ICE Agents..and read the FB page of ICE Agents making fun of immigrants..oh, yeah, NONE died under PRESIDENT Obama..there were NO death for 10 years until trumPutin was selected!!!!!!

      1. W.C. says:

        I sure hope ICE comes to GB puts the situation back on a legal bases.

  4. John Grogan says:

    I think what WC, John and the rest of his ilk fail to understand, or get confused about, is that the vast majority of the people we are talking about here, most of the people currently locked in cages at our southern border under horrid conditions, ARE trying g to co e here legally as asylum seekers. They are honoring our process. It is we who are perverting it for Trump’s hate filled, xenophobic political agenda.

    1. Art Ames says:

      No. They understand exactly, and they don’t care. Also note almost all of them will never post their names. It’s ok to be morally bereft in anonymity. We have a prez that’s lowered the bar.

      George Will the ultra conservative said this today;
      “I believe that what this president has done to our culture, to our civic discourse … you cannot unring these bells and you cannot unsay what he has said, and you cannot change that he has now in a very short time made it seem normal for schoolboy taunts and obvious lies to be spun out in a constant stream. I think this will do more lasting damage than Richard Nixon’s surreptitious burglaries did.”

      Our national policies are now mirroring this white power ugliness.

  5. T.Harvey says:

    I had Heard a Comparison of “Concentration Camps” We do not need that,we should be compassionate,I and Many of our Dear Family members would not be here if Our Ancestors did not immmagrate to America,and Some probly were illegal til they went for,Citizenship…… Handling these situations the Way Our so called Commander in Chief is doing is Barbaric and can be compared to the conditions of those Camps,Do NOT let History repeat itself… We need more compassion and caring for all . Ice coming and raiding people ,dragging in handcuffs in front of friends and family,must be aweful and those of you who wish for that to happen,well all I can say is Don’t cry when you break the law and your cuffed….. Bet you cry like a big baby and are scared to death and wet yourself because ,Small minded People like you ,should expirience it…The fear is real…and wishing that on others is SHAMEFULL

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