More than 100 southern Minnesotans gathered in St. Peter Friday night, joining other groups around America in looking to shine light on the plight of migrants.
Hosted by Indivisible St. Peter/Greater Mankato, the event included a rally at Gorman Park followed by a twilight procession to the Nicollet County Courthouse.
The silent walk — lighted with candles, cellphones, flashlights and lanterns — was in remembrance of the children who died while in U.S. detention centers near the Mexican border.
“We gather to bear witness to the suffering of desperate families and terrified children,” said Rev. Rita Capezzi of Mankato’s Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.
Capezzi was one of several speakers — most representing various faiths ranging from Jewish to Christian to Muslim — who called for action to change federal immigration policy and improve conditions at the holding facilities.
“We all know what fear can do to us. Fear can make us small. ... It can make us bullies. It can make us do things we otherwise would not do,” said Rev. Dana Mann of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Mankato.
All faiths teach that love overcomes fear, Mann said, calling on Americans to speak from their hearts: “We proclaim a God who blesses all people. ... This is the God we stand for when we say ‘One nation under God.’”
The national “Lights of Liberty” campaign called the coordinated events “A Nationwide Vigil to End Human Detention Camps.” The St. Peter group went a step further with “A Nationwide Vigil to End Concentration Camps.”
Both talked about the conditions at the detention facilities, with the national organization saying the effort would “bring light to the darkness of the Trump administration’s horrific policies.”
The St. Peter group discussed the overcrowding and lack of basic sanitation, medical care and adequate food at the facilities, along with the continuation of family separations. Hung from the picnic shelter at Gorman Park were small T-shirts with the Hispanic names of children who died in the American detention camps or shortly after being there.
Marian Broida of St. Peter was the final speaker. As a Jew, Broida said she felt compelled to speak out against injustice and “against a government that puts children in cages.”
She then led the crowd, with substantial help from a recording of Joan Baez, in singing the Mexican children’s folk song “De Colores.” The song describes the endless variety of hues seen in the birds, in the rainbow and in a springtime field, ending with the chorus “And that is why I love, the great loves of many colors.”
Organizers said more than 800 Lights for Liberty Vigils were planned Friday night — at least one in every state along with several foreign countries. In Minnesota, 13 were scheduled from Albert Lea to Grand Marais.