July 10, 2019

Lights for Liberty to Rally in Hinds Plaza; Vigil Friday Evening for Immigrant Rights

By Donald Gilpin

Hundreds of Princeton area residents are expected to rally in Hinds Plaza this Friday from 7-9 p.m. to support immigrant rights and to protest the treatment of immigrant families by the current administration.

“We are expecting a contingent of students associated with LEDA (Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America) from Princeton, as well as some families directly affected by the policy, people of faith who believe this is not what their church/mosque/synagogue has taught them, and many community members who believe it is their duty as human beings to show compassion to those seeking refuge,” said local organizer and Indivisible Cranbury leader Laura Zurfluh.

As part of an international demonstration titled Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Detention Camps, the Princeton event will feature local representatives and activists, including Maria Juega, co-founder of the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund (LALDEF); Princeton Councilwoman
Leticia Fraga; New Jersey Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker; Patricia Fernandez-Kelly, director of the Princeton University Center for Migration and Development and LALDEF board chair; and Veronica Olivares-Weber, vice chair of the Princeton Human Services Commission.

Sponsored by Princeton Marching Forward, Indivisible Princeton, Indivisible Cranbury, Lawrence Citizens Activists, Princeton Progressive Action Group, STAND CNJ, Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice, and others, the event, according to its organizers, will emphasize that while media attention is focused on issues at the southern border of the United States, there are injustices happening right here in Mercer County. “The event will highlight the breadth and reach of these human rights issues and help people get involved in efforts to drive change,” according to a Lights for Liberty press release.

Community groups will have tables available to share information, petitions, and action items, beginning at 7 p.m. on Friday. Speeches will begin at 8 p.m., and at 9 p.m. participants, in Hinds Plaza and around the world, will light candles in a silent vigil for all those held in U.S. detention camps.

Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert emphasized the impact of the immigrant crisis in New Jersey and throughout the country. “The inhumane treatment of immigrants in our country and right here in our state is deeply disturbing and outrageous,” Lempert said. County jails in Essex, Bergen, and Hudson are making millions of dollars each month off of the suffering of immigrants, including asylum-seekers who are fleeing persecution back home.”

Lempert described Friday’s demonstration as a “call for an end to the administration’s cruel deportation policies and an end to our state’s complicity.”

Zurfluh noted that the first hour of the event would be dedicated to providing information about local organizations that work with New Jersey’s immigrant communities and local opportunities to help those affected by recent government policies, “so that we can put our compassion into action.”

“The importance of this event is not just to bring attention to the humanitarian crisis, but to let our government know that this is unacceptable, and we will continue to do everything in our power to change our treatment of refugees,” she said. “We will be joining hundreds of events throughout the nation and the world to let everyone on this planet know that we do not support these policies or behaviors, and that this administration does not represent the best of what America is.”

More than 600 local events are planned for Friday evening throughout the United States and around the world to support Lights for Liberty, including key rallies in El Paso, Texas, at the border; in Homestead, Florida, at a migrant child detention facility; in San Diego near the point of entry site from Tijuana; in New York City, at Foley Square, where hundreds of immigrants are processed through detention every day; and in Washington, D.C., in Lafayette Park, where demonstrators will be demanding action from Congress to end detention camps and to impeach the president.