OBERLIN — Alongside larger rallies and marches across the country, Oberlin’s weekly peace vigil drew about 200 people Saturday to stand in solidarity with the Families Belong Together movement.
The Community Peace Builders have been holding vigils at noon every Saturday at Tappan Square since just after Sept. 11, 2001. While the group’s regular vigil is for peace, they on occasion change the message, joining larger movements, according to member Al Carroll, of Oberlin.
“Somebody said this is his first time at a protest holding a sign, and I see a lot of moms with kids here, and it’s obviously something that (is) very important to families,” Carroll said.
Residents from across Northeast Ohio, including Lorain, Medina and Summit counties, lined North Main Street, cheering as passing cars honked and waved in support of the group’s message. Steve Hammond, pastor of Oberlin’s Peace Community Church — another organizer for the day’s event — said he and others were protesting the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
“The heartlessness that’s taking place on our southern border, and people of goodwill have to respond to the ugliness that’s been unleashed on our country, and there must be resistance to this,” Hammond said. “We would hope by now that enough lines have been crossed that the outrage would already have reached a point where this kind of thing wouldn’t be happening, but we see what I would call the forces are evil are doubling down, so we’ve got to respond.”
Madison Kocsis, 16, of Oberlin, was one of several young people at the event.
“It’s important to come out because stuff like this should be talked about more and our government needs to start doing stuff about this,” she said. “It really sucks to see all of it go on, and it’s like I’ll sit at home and I’ll turn on the news and I see all this stuff, and I see kids in cages and kids being separated and it’s horrible to watch. I really want it to change.”
Rebecca Bandy, like others, brought her children — Evan, 12; Laura, 11; Adelaide, 7; and Sylvia, 3 — to instill in them the value of treating people fairly, regardless of their background.
“We’ve talked about this a lot as a family,” Bandy said, “and it’s really important to us to treat people fairly, regardless of any sort of superficial political status, so we feel people that are here should be treated like neighbors and guests of ours and shouldn’t be criminalized for coming here for asylum purposes or because they just want to work and raise their family in a safe place.”
Sharon Sweda, Democratic candidate for the Ohio Senate’s 13th District, stopped by to show her support and talk with constituents. The district includes Lorain and Huron counties, where families have felt the impact of recent immigration raids in Castalia and Sandusky.
Sweda said she used to live near Chef’s Garden family farm in Huron, and recalled seeing workers out in the fields early in the morning and returning after she went to bed.
“These aren’t troublemakers; these are people trying to earn a living and care for (their) families,” she said.
The afternoon’s event ended with participants in a circle in the square, coming together to share the experiences that brought them there and to have a moment of silence after chanting “no kids, no cages, reunite families now.”
Carroll was pleased with the turnout, and hopes it inspires change in a country he said he’s starting to worry about.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about regime change, and this is obviously an important issue,” he said. “It’s galvanized the country, and I’m hoping it will have an effect. I really worry about this country a lot these days, and so some things that show resistance on a large scale, hopefully do it.”