San Luis Obispo 2019 Lights for Liberty Rally

Support the human rights of all people.

Linda Poppenheimer Lights for Liberty Vigil Sign Front

Saturday, hundreds of people in San Luis Obispo joined a worldwide movement protesting the inhumane treatment of people at U.S. immigration detention centers.

My spouse and I were among the participants.

Over the past many months, I have been reading with growing horror and outrage, the news reports detailing the inhumane and illegal treatment that children, women, and men are suffering in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers located on our borders and around the country.

Especially distressing is that thousands of children have been separated from their families and are living in what are basically prisons. Imagine if it was your child or a child that you love. These children will be scarred for the rest of their lives by the experiences they are enduring now.

This cannot be happening in the United States of America—but it is.

When I spotted the Lights for Liberty announcement in my social media feed, I could easily have scrolled past it. But I didn’t. As I sat looking at the image of the Statue of Liberty on the event poster I found myself wondering “What would she do?”

Just two weeks ago, for Independence Day, I wrote a post entitled 4th of July – Patriotism and the Environment about the intersection between patriotism and environmentalism. I included Emma Lazarus’ beautiful sonnet that is engraved on the base of the Statue of Liberty. Here is an excerpt from the end of the sonnet.

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

I think of myself as a patriot and an environmentalist, but if I am not willing to stand up for the human rights of other people, then what kind of an American am I?

I knew participating in the Lights for Liberty rally would not fix the situation immediately but I do believe that people in the streets can affect change. So I asked my spouse to join me, marked the date on my calendar, and transformed my reusable sign into the one you see above.

Lights for Liberty in San Luis Obispo

Many Lights for Liberty events around the country were held on Friday, July 12 in the evening and involved lights. Our San Luis Obispo, CA rally occurred on Saturday, July 13 during the day. It was organized by Allies for Immigration Justice, SLO County and Women’s March San Luis Obispo.

On Saturday morning, I slathered on sunscreen, filled up my reusable water bottle, and found a strap for my spouse’s camera so that I could wear it around my neck at the rally.

Crowd Listening to Speakers at Lights for Liberty in San Luis Obispo on July 13, 2019
This is part of the crowd listening to the speakers at Lights for Liberty in San Luis Obispo, CA on July 13, 2019.

We arrived late so we missed the first speakers. The crowd of several hundred people was split into those willing to stand under the hot sun close to the courthouse steps near the speakers and the rest of us trying to find a bit a shade under the trees.

We heard the harrowing story of a local man who had been arrested and detained by ICE. Some people held large photos of people who have died in ICE custody as we listened to their histories being recounted. After each name was read, the crowd repeated the word presente as a way of remembering them.

This KSBY video provides an overview of Lights for Liberty in San Luis Obispo, CA on July 13, 2019.

One speaker talked about the importance of calling your elected officials to voice your concerns and ideas. She mentioned a group called 5calls.org that provides scripts for calls on a variety of issues. I liked her suggestion for phone averse people (like me), which is to call at night and leave a message.

The last speaker said something that I think is very important and she asked the crowd to repeat it several times (I hope I remembered it correctly).

Do the right thing.
Don’t turn away.
Stand up.

I understand the desire to turn away from things that are frightening or painful to think about, I feel it, too. But you and I can choose to do the right thing and stand up for the human rights of all people.

After the rally and vigil, we did a sidewalk march through downtown San Luis Obispo.

That means we peacefully walked down the sidewalk carrying our signs and chanting things like “Free the kids, close the camps,” while making room for the people going in and out of the stores and restaurants.

We obeyed traffic signals resulting in there being a number of marching clusters. One thing I realized is that each cluster needs someone willing to suggest chants and to keep them going. I am not that person, but a few of us in our cluster did the best we could.

Lights for Liberty Sidewalk March Cluster in San Luis Obispo, July 13, 2019
My spouse and I were walking with this sidewalk march cluster that was patiently waiting for the signal to change during Lights for Liberty in San Luis Obispo, CA on July 13, 2019. In the upper right corner, you can see my spouse’s sign “Families Belong Together” and the back of my sign “Close the Camps.”

After the march, my spouse and I walked to a local ice cream store for a cool and refreshing treat and then we headed home.

What Can You Do?

Below are just a few ideas of things you can do to help. (These ideas are pertinent to all kinds of human rights issues like racism, homelessness, and discrimination, to name a few.)

  • Participate in rallies, protests, and marches.
  • Contact your elected officials. (I contacted Senator Feinstein, Senator Harris, and Representative Carbajal.)
  • Talk to your family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors.
  • Donate time and/or money (see the resources section for articles that contain suggestions).
  • Find out what is going on in your community.

We are all human beings deserving of life, liberty, and a chance for the pursuit of happiness.

SLO Climate Coalition at Lights for Liberty Rally in San Luis Obispo, July 13, 2019
If we had been on time, we could have been in this photo with fellow environmentalists from the SLO Climate Coalition at Lights for Liberty in San Luis Obispo, CA on July 13, 2019. From left to right: Scott Lewis, Rita Casaverde, Dylan Stafforini, Janine Rands, John Smigelski, June Cochran, and Lauren Rueda. I got this photo from June.

Featured Image at Top: This is my reusable sign transformed for Lights for Liberty.

Related Posts

Resources

Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information and to spark conversation. Her mission is to live more lightly on Earth and to persuade everyone else to do the same.

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