As part of an effort nation-wide effort that drew hundreds of thousands to rallies and marches protesting immigration policies and separating children from their parents, 100 people joined in a vigil Saturday in Cobleskill’s Veterans Park.
There were no speakers; instead the crowd held signs--“Families Belong Together,” Children Belong with their Parents,” and “Restore Asylum Rights,” among them.
Despite the heat, a half-dozen vigilers draped themselves in silver, metallic “space” blankets like those being given to children separated from their parents.
The event was sponsored by Peacemakers of Schoharie County, who devoted their Saturday vigil to the protest and registered it as a sister action to other protests.
It’s the fifth- or sixth- large protest held in Veterans Park since the November 2016 election; organizer Sue Spivack called President Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy “a new low in American democracy” that makes scapegoats out of immigrants.
“To criminalize and demonize immigrants has so many echoes of other countries brutal dictators and mass murderers…
“It’s a cascading waterfall that’s chipping away at democracy.”
One Cobleskill man doesn’t agree.
Donald Crandall parked his car along Main Street about halfway through the hour-long vigil to confront protestors, engaging some of them in a shouting match.
“Where were you when Obama was President?” he asked from the street.
“The law is the law. There are right ways in. People need to follow the law.”
Mr. Crandall accused the group of being “a bunch of Democrats…you’re probably pro-abortion…you need to read the bible” which he said supports his stance in immigration.
“I’m reading it right now,” replied one man. “Really.”
Cindy Campbell, one of the viglers approached Mr. Crandall quietly, telling him she’d like to listen to what he had to say and suggesting they find a quiet place out of the sun.
He didn’t mind the heat, he said, and felt he needed to stop and make his point.
In another attempt to make the exchange less confrontational—one man against 100--another vigiler, Pat Hults, took a spot behind Mr. Crandall so he wasn’t alone and to keep him from backing out into traffic.
“You’re saying that they’re not illegal,” he continued. “Then come through the proper channels.”
The exchange lasted about 10 minutes; afterwards vigilers blamed themselves for not being able to find a way to talk to Mr. Crandall and people like him.
“Things get so emotional,” Ms. Spivack said. “This is our community…we have to find ways to talk to each other. Ways to share facts without putting people on the defensive.”