Benicia Lights for Liberty – a perspective, by Jean Walker

Lights for Liberty, a candlelight vigil to end human detention camps – a particpant’s thoughts

By Jean Walker, July 12, 2019

The early evening summer sun simmered in the western sky, shining like a beacon upon the group gathered within and around the gazebo at Benicia City Park Friday evening. I later overheard the crowd estimate was at least 400 hundred people.

My husband and I each had a black canvas camp chair slung across a shoulder. We carefully stepped across the grass, avoiding parents, toddlers, pre-teens, high school students, college kids, and oldsters like us. We found an empty spot, planted our chairs, and, as if on cue, Benicia City Councilmember Steve Young stepped up to the podium with the microphone near his face, speaking a welcoming message to all: “There are people, even in my own family, who tell me, ‘You’re so into politics .. I’m sick of politics .. I don’t pay any attention to politics.’ And all I can say to that is, you may not pay any attention to politics, but politics pays attention to you.”

Young then introduced Benicia City Mayor Elizabeth Patterson who shared that the Benicia City Council adopted the Inclusive Tolerant Safe Community for Everyone resolution in late January 2017 by a vote of 3-2 (timesheraldonline.com/2017/02/08/benicia-city-council-declares-benicia-an-inclusive-city ). She stated this resolution was passed to show “unity and solidarity” against the “illegal and unconstitutional actions by the current administration.”

Representatives from the offices of U.S. Representative Mike Thompson, State Senator Bill Dodd, and State Assembly Member Tim Grayson also spoke. Monica Brown, Benicia’s representative on the Solano County Board of Supervisors, urged everyone to vote “for compassionate caring leaders in all 50 states.”

Dr. Bonnie Hamilton, pediatrician, read a first-person account written by Dr. Dolly Lucio Sevier (published in The Atlantic: theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/07/border-patrols-oversight-sick-migrant-children/593224 ). “Dr. Sevier went to a Border Patrol warehouse in McAllen, Texas, where more than a thousand migrant children were being detained. She saw: a baby being fed from the same unwashed bottle for days; children with clear evidence of an infection; children with signs of malnutrition, dehydration, and sleep deprivation, and several children were exhibiting clear evidence of psychological trauma.”

I learned a lot about local organizations that are helping immigrants:

  • Catholic Charities of Yolo & Solano Counties ( ccyoso.org )
  • Diaz & Loera Centro Latino (a bilingual, multi-service volunteer organization designed to meet the needs of Latino families and individuals in Vallejo). Find them on Facebook: facebook.com/diazloeracentrolatino
  • VIDAS 501(c)(3) (Vital Immigrant Defense Advocacy and Services), 707-654-8405
  • SCRRN (Solano County Rapid Response Network 707-800-4544). Call SCRRN when you hear about ICE in neighborhood or workplaces. They will send immigration-trained lawyers & observers. They will determine if ICE is actually in the area or if it’s a false alarm. On Facebook: facebook.com/SolanoCountyRapidReponseNetwork

It was 9pm, the sun was just a soft peach glow below the horizon, and a cool breeze had begun to raise goosebumps on my arms. I pulled on a jacket and stood up with everyone, my little battery-lit candle high above my head, and sang with my heart, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, Everywhere we go, I’m gonna let it shine, We got the light of freedom, we’re gonna let it shine, All around the world, we’re gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”

Thank you to Lights for Liberty (lightsforliberty.org), specifically Sherry Vinson, and to the Progressive Democrats of Benicia (progressivedemocratsofbenicia.org), for sponsoring Friday evening’s vigil at Benicia City Park.

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