Human Rights Vigil Sends a Message to Representative Vern Buchanan

photo by Kelly Wilson
photo by Kelly Wilson

The words “Love Thy Neighbor” lit up the night at a “Love Thy Neighbor” human rights vigil organized by All of Us Sarasota on Thursday, April 13. The phrase was spelled out by large signs each with one letter in LED lights, all of which New College students held up while speakers talked to the crowd which gathered in front of them.

The organization All of Us Sarasota brings together people who are interested different issues, such as environmental issues and immigrants rights in our community. At this vigil, however, they came together to make a statement to Vern Buchanan through four key policy targets. To deny funding for President Trump’s mass deportation and detention plan, to deny funding for a border wall, to withdraw support for the sanctuary cities act and to condemn President Trump’s travel ban.

“We may or may not have voted for him, but we are his constituents,” Michelle Nungester of the Florida Nurses Association said to the crowd during a speech. This statement was met with applause from the crowd as she continued to speak to the group of people gathered on the steps of the federal building in front of a line of mostly New College students, each holding one letter of a sign which read “Love Thy Neighbor” in large LED letters.

“I keep hearing the GOP and the president himself say that we are not a movement […] I keep asking, why the harsh judgement for something so historical and American. Why are they insulting us, ignoring us refusing the meet with us, threatening us, voting against us and calling us criminals and saying that we do not love our country. There is only one answer. They absolutely do comprehend the depth of revolt and resistance that is now driving all of us,”  Nungester said.

New College Professor Sara Hernandez from New College also took to the microphone to speak at the vigil.

“We do not have to become inhuman to protect our human rights,” Hernandez said.

She then quoted article 23 of the Declaration of Human Rights, stating:  “Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work. Everyone without any discrimination has the right to equal payment for equal work.”

The last speaker of the night second-year New College student Ximena Pedroza gave an emotional account of a chilling day in her life. By the end of her story, many in the crowd were in tears, and Professor Hernandez held the microphone and wrapped an arm around Ximena for support as she asked the crowd to chant, “Not one more.”

Finally, volunteers in highlighter-green vests lit candles for the members of the crowd who shared the flames with their neighbors and there was a moment of silence for the cause before the vigil officially ended with a few words from the All of Us organization.

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