Around 150 people met beneath the whale statue at Mayor Bill Overstreet Park Friday night to protest immigrant detention facilities.
The vigil was a part of a larger effort, as thousands of “Lights for Liberty” vigils were held around the country.
“It’s incumbent on each of us to witness what is happening, to refuse to tolerate what we know to be wrong, to open our eyes and ears to corruption and inhumanity, to find the time and courage to speak up and speak out,” said Libby Bakalar during the rally.
For Betty Marriott, the issue hits close to home. When she was 2 years old, she was sent with her family to a Japanese internment camp in Idaho, she said in an interview before the vigil.
She pointed to her with pictures of people in Japanese internment camps in 1942 comparing it to pictures of the immigrant detention camps at the Mexican border that said, “WRONG THEN, WRONG NOW.”
“My parents had three days notice to get out of Seattle,” she said. “We were housed in a temporary place while the concentration camps were being constructed in Idaho. … We had to live in horse stalls.”
But she said this still wasn’t as bad as the camps at the border, because she was with her family and the horse stalls had cots. Many of the children at the border have been separated from their parents, some who are not even a year old.
“We weren’t separated from our parents,” she said. “It just breaks my heart to see this happening to children.”
People attending the event signed letters to U.S. Sens. Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and passed around buckets to raise money for RAICES, an organization that provides free legal services to people seeking asylum at the border. A series of speakers hosted the rally, notably an original song performed and written by Emily Mesch.
“Queremos vivir,” she sang, which in English means, “We want to live.”
• Mollie Barnes is a freelance reporter in Juneau.