The people gathered outside the Linn County Courthouse on Friday didn’t have sound, but they were going to be heard.
A permit mix-up that left the sound system without electricity didn’t deter them from using cupped hands and strained voices to share messages, the same messages scrawled on signs and printed on T-shirts in the crowd.
“No human is illegal on stolen land.”
“Cage Trump, not kids.”
And “Close the camps.”
It’s the rally cry for supporters of Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Concentration Camps.
The group held protests in more than 700 cities around the nation on Friday.
The protests came on the back of an announcement from the Trump administration that Immigration and Customs Enforcement would be conducting raids, arresting undocumented immigrants, beginning this weekend.
Lights for Liberty, which is partnering with local communities, describes itself as, “a coalition of people, many of whom are mothers, dedicated to human rights, and the fundamental principle behind democracy that all human beings have the right to life, liberty and dignity.”
It’s a coalition Stephanie Newton wanted to be a part of.
Newton, an Albany resident, said she had been following the conditions at the border when a friend mentioned Lights for Liberty.
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“She knew my stance on this and I wanted to get involved,” she said.
Newton’s effort joined more than 20 others around the state of Oregon from Portland to Ashland and Eugene to Madras.
Approximately 120 people gathered on the courthouse steps to protest the conditions at the border including separating children as young as 4 months old from their parents. They read statements from children in the detention facilities that described hunger and a lack of soap and water. A 13-year-old girl from Guatemala wrote of caring for her two-year-old nephew after being separated from her sister at the border.
“Our mother lives in Houston,” she wrote. “We want to go live with her. It’s always cold in the cage. I haven’t been told how long we’ll be here.”
Another letter from an 8-year-old boy said he had come to the United States with his aunt but hadn’t seen her since their separation. “I was scared,” he wrote. “I cried.”
A teenage mother wrote of crossing the bridge at the border, an accepted mechanism for legally seeking asylum, and being shuttled to one of the detention centers.
“My daughter had a fever and a cough,” she wrote. “I asked to see a doctor. A person looked at her and did not examine her. They said there was nothing wrong with her. There is not enough room to lay down, some of sleep sitting up. The children cannot play outside.”
Albany resident Javier Cervantes told the crowd that his own parents had entered the United States illegally from Mexico. His wife’s parents had been undocumented as well after crossing the border, travelling from El Salvador.
“America is a dream,” he said. “My parents came to this country with nothing so that they could give me everything.” He went on to say that his wife’s mother had been left with just 14 cents to her name upon arrival.
“If she could make it here with 14 cents, we can do something too,” he said.
When the sun went down and dark settled in, the crowd lit candles, and the names of children who had died in ICE custody were read.