ITHACA, N.Y. — “This land was made for you and me,” a crowd sang Friday evening at the Bernie Milton Pavilion on the Ithaca Commons. The well-known song was sung in this instance as a protest of the detention of undocumented immigrants and the separation of families at the southern border.
A few hundred people gathered July 12 on the Commons at a Lights for Liberty Vigil to End Concentration Camps. It was one of hundreds planned across the nation ahead of ICE raids expected Sunday.
Vigils were planned to raise awareness about the reports that show conditions at the detention centers at the southern border are inhumane, resources are exhausted and families are being separated. Journalists have talked to children held in the centers to see what the conditions were like. All of this news prompted the coalition Lights for Liberty to organize a worldwide vigil in honor of the detainees.
The event included a variety of speakers and musicians, including Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, congressional candidate Tracy Mitrano, and Carlos Gutierrez of the Tompkins County Workers’ Center. Volunteers set up tables where attendees could register to vote and another table with information to contact Congressman Tom Reed with concerns.
The Ithaca rally was one of over 700 vigils organized by Lights for Liberty that occurred July 12 throughout the United States and around the world. Lights for Liberty describes itself as a “loose coalition of grassroots activists.”
Local organizers Una Moneypenny and Alison Christie said they decided to create the event after hearing about Lights for Liberty through a daily podcast by Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin.
Christie said she was motivated to put on the vigil because government officials are not listening to what their constituents want.
“A lot of people are asking where is the leadership? Why can we not get these concentration camps shut down?” she said. “(The government actions) are being done in our name, with our money, and we need to make it stop.”
Jen Jacoby volunteered to monitor the crowd at the rally. She said she signed up to help as an individual as a way to protest treatment that she said is against basic human rights.
“The treatment of the families in the detention centers needs to end,” Jacoby said. “They’re not being treated fairly and it’s important that we come out and talk against it.”
Over two hundred people did come out to protest the conditions of the detention centers. Many waved signs protesting the infringement of human rights and the government administration that allows such atrocities to occur.
Attendee Sara Ferguson said she came to the rally with her family to stand in solidarity with those who are illegally detained at the border. She said she felt the need to do something when she heard about the situation.
“Maybe I shouldn’t be shocked, but I’m absolutely shocked,” she said. “It’s the 21st century and yet there are once again concentration camps at the border. I cannot believe it, and I’ll do whatever I can to stop it.”
Christie said that there is more to come in the future and that the vigil was only the first step. Moneypenny echoed the sentiment. She said change will happen from the ground level and that there is a moral imperative to take action when things are this bad.
“We’re in it, and we’re in it until it’s over,” Moneypenny said.
After the speakers and musicians finished their speeches and songs, the crowd lit their candles and had a moment of silence. The rally concluded with the song, “This Land is Your Land,” by Woody Guthrie.
The crowd sings through the well-loved verses before stumbling through a section that most had never heard before:
“Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.”