Local residents hold ‘Lights’ vigil in downtown Farmington

Farmington resident Nicole Rottet has been “sickened” by reports related to the detention of immigrants held at the U.S. border.

Lights for Liberty
Zak Burns-Pavilik, left, lights a candle for vigil participant Kelli Carpenter-Crawford.

“These are people seeking our help,” she said after a “Lights for Liberty” event held Friday evening in downtown Farmington. “They’re worse off than when they left (their homes). That’s not what our country is about.”

Taylor Delind Balk campaign ad

The local candlelight vigil was one of hundreds happening across the country to protest immigrant detention centers. And it almost didn’t happen.

Rottet initially contacted the City of Farmington to find out how to hold a local event in Women’s Park (located in the southwest corner of the Grand River/Oakland Street intersection). But the city’s special event policy for gatherings of 25 or more people requires that organizers provide insurance and meet other requirements.

Sunflour Bakehaus
Vigil participants observed five minutes of silence in front of Sunflour Bakehaus.

Not knowing how many people would show up, Rottet canceled the public event and invited friends to gather at her home.

One of those friends is Becky Burns, co-owner of Sunflour Bakehaus in downtown Farmington. She offered the storefront as a gathering spot, and suggested that if more than 25 people showed up, smaller groups could be dispatched to nearby public properties like the U.S. Post Office in the Downtown Farmington Center.

Lights for LIberty

“Aside from supporting schools and the library, Jeff and I make it a policy to keep the bakery out of politics,” she said. “But these detention camps are not political, they’re inhumane. The people being detained, seperated from their families and treated like animals are people who are coming to the United States asking for our help. Seeking asylum in the United States is not a crime, yet we’re treating these people worse than criminals.”

More than 20 local residents of all ages showed up on Grand River at around 8:30 p.m. At 9 p.m., they lined up in front of the bakery, facing Grand River, and observed five minutes of silence.

Marie Lowry

Marie Lowry said she participated because “it’s an important issue.”

”I studied German history, and I can tell you, it’s falling step by step with German history… I work with asylum seekers, I know it’s a perfectly legal thing to do.”

Lowry, who runs a group called “Save the World” at the Universalist Unitarian Church of Farmington, said while she could have attended a larger vigil, she chose a local event because of the impact closer to home.

”It’s sowing seeds,” she said. “It’s important to be out in the community sowing these seeds of thought.”

Learn more about Lights for Liberty at lightsforliberty.org.

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