PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - More than 1,000 people gathered downtown on Friday night as part of a nationwide demonstration against migrant detentions centers.
The crowd joined hundreds of other communities across the United States as part of the “Lights for Liberty” vigils.
In Portland, advocates and concerned citizens first gathered at the Terry Schrunk Plaza around 9 p.m. A slew of dancers, singers, speakers and a prayer led off the event.
Demonstrators spoke out against what they said are poor conditions inside migrant detention centers on the southern border.
“Human rights abuses are happening right in front of our – everybody’s – eyes, and sanctioned by the government,” organizer Monica Arce told FOX 12. “And I think it is our responsibility as a population to protest and to make sure everybody understands that we do not support this and we think that this is wrong.”
Videos of the detention centers that have gone public have appeared to show overcrowding and migrants being held behind caged fences.
According to the Associated Press, at least five children have died in Border Patrol custody, or after being released, since December.
“I think for me personally, there's no excuse for any of it for adults of children,” said demonstrator Emmy Connell of Portland. “I have two small children. Just the idea of these children not getting their needs meet - hugs, love, toys - all things children should have access to. It's just breaking my heart.”
President Donald Trump and many Republicans have defended the conditions at the detention centers.
In a tweet posted July 3, the president said the conditions are “better” and “safer” than where many of the migrants have come from.
Causa, an Oregon-based immigrants rights organization, has been among a multitude of others that have called the conditions “inhumane” and disputed the president’s claim.
As darkness fell over the rally Friday night, the crowd also spoke out against reported ICE raids planned for this weekend in major U.S. cities.
Then, they raised lit candles and shouted “Never again is now!” before marching on sidewalks. Eventually, they crossed the Hawthorne Bridge, then turned around and returned back downtown.
The crossing of the bridge, organizers said, was an act of symbolism to represent what they called “peaceful border crossings”.
According to the “Lights for Liberty” website, events were also planned Friday night in various other Oregon communities including Salem, Eugene, Bend and Astoria.
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