Central Ohio to participate in worldwide 'Lights for Liberty' vigils

Erica Thompson
Sandra Weisner, Danielle Harlow and Tiffany Sigler Rumbalski

When the sun sets on Friday, July 12, Central Ohio residents will be holding candlelight vigils in at least three places: the Ohio Statehouse, Morrow County Jail in Mt. Gilead and Westerville City Hall. The goal is to bring more awareness to the conditions of detention facilities at the border, and stand in solidarity with the immigrants, especially the children, being held.

“I care very deeply about the people at the border, and I have a lot of sympathy for their conditions,” said activist Danielle Harlow, who organized the 8 p.m. gathering at Morrow County Correctional Facility, which is an immigrant detention center.  “I think it was Rep. Ayanna Pressley who said, ‘This is about the preservation of our humanity.’ We have to stand up and say that no one in the United States can be treated this way.”

A multitude of others will join Central Ohio in standing up in nearly 800 vigils taking place on the same day worldwide. They are all part of the Lights for Liberty coalition, organized around the belief that “all human beings have a right to life, liberty and dignity,” according to the website.

Since last year, the U.S. has been grappling with the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which has resulted in the separation of migrant children from their parents. And reports about the overcrowded border camps — detailing limited access to food and showers, among other disturbing findings — continue to surface.

“I'm just as horrified as I was last year,” said Sandra Weisner, who organized the 8 p.m. vigil in Westerville. “To treat children this way, it’s just beyond me. And for people to say, ‘Well, their parents shouldn't have come,’ well, [the children] didn't have an opportunity to say, ‘Yes, I want to go.’  We treat our stray animals better.”

Spearheading the 7 p.m. vigil at the Statehouse, Tiffany Sigler Rumbalski said she doesn’t think people fully grasp the severity of the situation. “This should be the reaction of every single American. There's no reason ever to do this to anybody. And the fact that they're fleeing violence [from their native countries] makes it that much worse.”

The vigils will feature panelists ranging from school psychologists to immigrants who will share relevant experiences. Some plan to pass out flyers to instruct people how to donate or otherwise get involved with the cause. Some will sing songs.

“People can also hold vigils in their front lawn or their backyard,” Sigler Rumbalski said.

“We've got to break through and change mass consciousness,” Weisner said. “But that's only going to happen if we keep up our voices.”

According to the Lights for Liberty website, many of the people involved are mothers. Harlow, Weisner and Sigler Rumbalski all have children and are part of a community of everyday people in the city who have been mobilized since the 2015 presidential election. For example, activist group Indivisible: Ohio District 12 — which included suburban moms — protested outside of former Rep. Pat Tiberi’s Worthington office each Thursday for a year. (The politician resigned last year.)

Sigler Rumbalski said actions like the upcoming vigils are easy ways to empower people to take a stand. “We need people to show up,” she said.

“I hope that, somehow, we communicate to people in other countries — and in our own country — that the United States is not just the policies of the president that we've elected, that he does not represent all of us,” Marlow said. “The American dream that they're coming to this country to achieve is still possible, and we will still welcome them. We have to get through this moment in time.”

Lights for Liberty vigils

Friday, July 12

Ohio Statehouse

7-10 p.m. 

1 Capitol Sq., Downtown

Morrow County Jail

8-11 p.m.

101 Home Rd., Mt. Gilead

Westerville City Hall

8-10:15 p.m.

21 S. State St., Westerville