Leaders speak at Lights for Liberty vigil on State House grounds

Allen Wallace photos.

Friday night at 9 p.m., more than 100 people at the State House in Columbia joined others all over the world in holding up lights, and the words of the poet Emma Lazarus were heard again.

Lights for Liberty: a Vigil to End Human Concentration Camps was a cooperative effort organized by many groups to protest the conditions in which immigrants are being detained along the southern border of the United States.

The Columbia event was organized by the South Carolina Poor People’s Campaign, Columbia-NOW, SC United With Immigrants, and Indivisible Midlands.

“We are gathered here today on the steps of the South Carolina State House to shine a light on how asylum seekers are being treated in our country,” said organizer Gary Votour of the SC Poor People’s Campaign. “I believe that the people of the United States are caring and compassionate and would never knowingly choose to look away from the atrocities being committed. The people who we are standing for are not criminals, they are coming here for the same reasons that my father’s people came – to build a life for themselves and their children.”

Votour added that he and his fellow organizers are not calling for open borders, only for “people who come here seeking asylum to be vetted in a timely manner and to be treated humanely while being detained.”

Friday’s event in Columbia included musical performances from Kevin McKinney and Brenda Ellis, along with speakers representing the organizing groups and other community organizations.

“We are reaching out to all because we are the rainbow children of God,” said Annette Bethel of Columbia-NOW. “There’s no illegal or legal immigrant. We’re all children of God.”

Categories: Columbia, Richland County