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Lights for Liberty events in Sullivan draw crowds to protest kids in custody

By Elizabeth Lepro
Posted 7/17/19

SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — Long-time civil rights activist Priscilla Bassett was one of many marching on the sidewalk along Main Street in Liberty Friday night, shouting “This is what …

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Lights for Liberty events in Sullivan draw crowds to protest kids in custody

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SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — Long-time civil rights activist Priscilla Bassett was one of many marching on the sidewalk along Main Street in Liberty Friday night, shouting “This is what democracy looks like.” Still taking to the streets at 91, she said she’s no longer in the position to be organizing.

“But I’m certainly grateful to those who do,” she said, pointing in front of her at a group of highschoolers leading the charge, “Look: the youth!”

 The “Lights for Liberty” march was one of many taking place across the country, and one of three in Sullivan County, to “shine a light” on conditions in which migrant children are being held in detention centers at the U.S.-Mexico border. The march in Liberty was, fittingly, energized by the youth. At the front of the marching crowd were seven and three-year old Rose and Cora, wielding signs they made themselves. Representatives from the highschool-run Youth Economic Group led rallying cries including “No justice, no peace,” and “Silence is violence,” for the group of 80 to 100.

Kathie Aberman, who organized the march in Liberty, along with Anne Hart (who is associated with The River Reporter), said she invited the high schoolers. “I’m getting tired,” Aberman said, half jokingly. “I want to see these young-uns step up.”
The Youth Economic Group silkscreens bags and t-shirts based on injustices in the community, including gender equality, police brutality and farmworkers’ rights. 

“It feels good to feel like you’re making change, especially as a youth, usually our voices are kind of ignored,” said 16-year-old Breanah Brady. “For something as important as this, I feel like it’s really important that we’re involved, because a lot of our friends, our family—this is affecting us.”
Though Sullivan County seems farremoved from the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, many rally-goers noted the high rate of immigrants living in Liberty.

“So many of my friends are immigrants,” said 16-year-old Angelina Martinez. “They should feel safe in their environment and not have to worry about whether or not somebody’s going to take them out of their homes.”

Aberman said part of the reason she wanted to hold the march was to show local families who migrated here that they are supported. 

“I have neighbors who are from other countries. They have to be looking at what’s going on in this country and be horrified,” she said. “At the very least, it’s telling people that they’re not alone.” 
The Lights for Liberty protests preceded a weekend of promised raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents across the country. By Sunday, that promise did not seem to materialize, though many migrant families remained in their homes and afraid for much of the weekend. 

Sen. Jen Metzger showed up to the Liberty march, to a round of applause from attendees. “We want a real, comprehensive immigration policy in this country. That is the solution,” she said. “This humanitarian crisis must end now.”
In Callicoon, a larger turnout than organizer Liz Bucar expected showed up for a vigil on the bridge.

“Imagine it. Waiting on the Callicoon Bridge with a bag of tea lights and a notebook to collect the names of people who’d work together to #CloseTheCamps. Thinking how heartening it would be if 30 people showed up,” she wrote in a Facebook post after the event. “Then there were 30, 40, 50, 60, 80... 105 single-minded souls of all ages, lighting the dark and saying the same thing, ‘Never again.’”

The Callicoon event was a stationary vigil. Bucar said part of her goal was to pool resources in the community to find ways to send help to the detention centers. On Monday, Bucar urged attendees to meet with Rep. Anthony Delgado’s staff at the Western Sullivan Public Library in Tusten, to follow up on discussions about what can be done from Sullivan County.

In Narrowsburg, in a vigil organized by Beverly Sterner, about eight people showed up to stand on the bridge in support of migrants.

Sandra Cuellar Oxford, who attended the vigil in Callicoon, said she knows from experience, after adopting her son from Honduras, what it’s like to go through the border process.

“It’s a nightmare,” she said. “This crisis has been manufactured by the administration in many ways… I was just really thankful that all my neighbors showed up and that we were able to be part of the groundswell of support to oppose what’s going on.”

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