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‘Stop it. This is child abuse. Stop it.’

News Photo by Darby Hinkley An American flag flies over a stop sign in downtown Alpena on Friday.

ALPENA — A Lights for Liberty march from the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center to the Alpena County Courthouse will conclude with a vigil to end human detention camps. The group will meet riverside at 500 W. Fletcher St. at 11:30 a.m. Friday to proceed to the courthouse, where they will line the sidewalk for a silent vigil, hear speakers, and join together in song.

“On Friday July 12th, 2019, Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Concentration Camps, will bring thousands of people to locations worldwide as well as to concentration camps across country, into the streets and into their own front yards, to protest the inhumane conditions faced by migrants,” a press release from Alpena-based People for Social Justice stated.

The march, silent vigil and presentation are organized by People for Social Justice, and cosponsored by the Alpena County League of Women Voters.

The Rev. Bob Case will be one of the speakers at the free event, which will include readings of statements from children who have been confined in detention camps in United States custody. The group will join together in song led by Greg Altman.

“The purpose of this vigil is to stand in unity with thousands of other Americans, advocates from around the world, to deplore the inhumane practice of separating immigrant children from their families, then detaining them for weeks in filthy overcrowded conditions,” said the press release, provided by People for Social Justice Chair Judi Stillion. “According to eyewitness reports, disease is spreading rapidly through migrant facilities. There is insufficient food, soap, showers, clean clothes, and toothbrushes. Babies are not getting clean diapers, and kids are being forced to sleep on concrete floors without blankets. Eight-year-olds are taking care of toddlers.”

President Donald Trump’s administration has said children in its custody are well-cared-for, the Associated Press reports.

Trump signed a $4.6 billion aid package on July 1 to help the federal government cope with the surge of Central American immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Organizers are urging the Alpena community to put political differences aside and join together for the sake of these children.

“There is a lot of information out there right now in the media about these human detention camps,” said Janet Fairchild, who handles public relations for People of Social Justice. “Mainly our focus is on the children. Our message to the community at large is that we want them to come out, gather together, and hear the voices of the children who have spoken to eyewitnesses in a number of these camps. And we’re going to be reading some of their testimonials. We’re trying to shed light on the whole idea of inhumanity, the pain and suffering that these children right now are facing. And it’s not just hearsay. I’ve got pages and pages of documentation and citations here.”

“People need to express their outrage,” Stillion said. “They need to be able to vent and say, ‘This is not who we are.’ … We want to motivate people to write their legislators, and get a movement going. … This is happening in our name. And that’s not OK.”

“It’s unconscionable for us not to speak out,” Fairchild added. “There is a tendency to politicize this issue, and our message is that it is not a political issue. This is a humanitarian issue, and anyone who cares about children, who cares about the welfare of children, regardless of their race, their ethnicity, their religion, should be out there with us honoring them and speaking out to their legislators, and mainly to the Congress and executive branch right now, because we want them to take action. It’s really not that complicated. It’s a simple message: ‘Stop it. This is child abuse. Stop it.'”

A sign-making workshop will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Alpena Community College’s CTR 106 just down from the ACC gym. Organizers said materials will be provided, but people are encouraged to bring their own posterboard, and come and go as they please. Signs will be made to carry in the march and hold during Friday’s silent vigil.

“We’re hoping to get the community together on this, regardless of ideology, political association, or religion, we’re all here together,” Fairchild noted. “And I think Alpena is a very caring and loving community, so I expect to see a lot of people there.”

“The squeaky wheel gets the oil, and we need to start squeakin’ again,” Stillion said. “Child abuse should be everybody’s issue.”

For more information, contact Stillion at jstillion@live.com.

Darby Hinkley can be reached at dhinkley@thealpenanews.com or 989-358-5691.