Around 300 community members congregated in Fortuna’s Rohner Park Friday night for “Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Concentration Camps,” one of hundreds of similar events across the country organized in support of people currently being held in inhumane conditions at U.S.-Mexico border detention centers.

The night featured numerous speeches from local leaders. Elizabeth Phillips, a community organizer with Centro del Pueblo, kicked off the night by calling for an end to policies which result in human containment. 

Elizabeth Phillips, community organizer with Centro del Pueblo

“This is our America, but this doesn’t have to be our history,” Phillips said. “Each person standing here tonight has chosen a different path. We are coming together to end these policies of containment. As we hold this space, as we seek understanding in each other’s struggles we are creating a powerful showing of solidarity. We stand saying never again! We have witnessed holocaust on this land before and justified reservations and we are bearing witness to another holocaust. Our brothers and sisters are coming and asking for help, for access to what every human wants and deserves: safety, love and community.”

The Outpost attended the gathering and offers up a few photos.

A musical performance from The Raging Grannies

Tolowa tribal member Marva Jones offered a blessing near the start of the event

Marianne Pennekamp, 95, a longtime Humboldt resident and Holocaust survivor, fled Hitler’s Germany for France with her family as a child. “I also believe that empathy is absolutely critical so that one can put oneself in the shoes of the other,” she said.

“Let’s stand up and fight and figure out how each of us can help to not let it be acceptable that people are treated the way they are treated now at the southern border.”

Aiko Uyeki, 92, was sent with her family to a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II. “Even at my young age I noticed, from reading in newspapers, that German-Americans and Italian Americas were not removed from the East Coast,” she said. “Being stripped of our material possessions was not nearly as traumatic as the loss of our dignity.” 

John Driscoll, district representative for Jared Huffman, read a statement from the congressman. “Embracing immigrants, many of whom come here seeking refuge or asylum from horrific violence in war torn countries, is part of the fabric of America. It recharges and revitalizes the American Dream.”

Rabbi Naomi Steinberg: “The Jewish community in America will not be silent when other people are mistreated. We protest with all our heart. We protest with all our soul. We protest with all our strength. We protest and we say never again.”

Local musician and activist Julio Torres

Singer/songwriter Ariel Fishkin wrote a song called “Melt the ICE” specifically for the event.

Hoopa tribal member Thomas Joseph: “We need to ask more of our representatives. We are not here to listen to their rhetoric or their empty promises. We demand action. We demand the impeachment of Donald Trump.”

Molly Cate, Unity Church of the Redwoods

Centro del Pueblo’s Armando Peña

Local NAACP chapter President Sharrone Blanck

Centro del Pueblo’s Brenda Perez translates into Spanish a poem written for the event by James Floss