Friday night, a protest at West Capital Park in Albany called for an end to detention centers at the southern border. More than 20 local organizations participated in the “Lights for Liberty” protest and vigil.
The gathering was part of a nation-wide effort with several other events in major cities. The protest comes ahead of planned ICE raids this weekend. There were bold statements from speakers at the rally.
"As I look at what is happening in these facilities, I can’t help but be reminded of the ghettos in Poland in Warsaw,” said Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan.
Mayor Sheehan compared the detention centers along the southern border to activity in Europe that preceded the holocaust. They were potentially controversial comments serving as a call to action.
"We can’t be afraid they are going to threaten to send ICE into our community. We can’t be afraid, we must stand up,” Sheehan said.
Organizers like Colleen Ryan called for an end to, what they call, “the inhumane treatment of refugees” in detention centers.
“We're seeing children without blankets, children without toothbrushes, children without diaper changes. It is abominable and it is unnecessary,” Ryan said.
Their message, a stark contrast to views expressed by many Republicans, including Albany County GOP Chair Christine Benedict.
“If they really want to protest, get on an airplane. Go down there, go to the border, and see what it’s all about,” Benedict said.
Benedict believes concerns over conditions inside detention centers is overblown. She wishes Democrats would back fund to improve detention facilities.
But, speakers at the Albany rally argue the Trump administration’s immigration policies are inhumane and more must be done to protect people seeking asylum.
“This is a coalition of groups that have come together looking to effect positive change, so it is not just the end, it is the beginning,” Ryan said.
In response to planned ICE raids this weekend, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy is calling attention to county services to help people who may be detained
The number to call for help is 1-833-373-2677 or visit here. Governor Cuomo’s office has also released a list of resources.