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Relaying a message: Ashland hands off protest

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A three-day fast in Ashland in protest of immigrant children being detained at the U.S. border separately from their parents ended Friday evening with a march of a dozen famished Ashlanders from Triangle Park to Pioneer Hall by Lithia Park, then a benediction for broken families and breaking of the fast over rice, beans and salsa.

It was a solemn event and the hungry marchers wound up in a seemingly meditative state, with the Rev. Richenda Fairhurst of Ashland’s Methodist Church noting, “Fasting is a sacred act in your personal life. You try to do good. You try to at least do no harm. The opposite of this is not evil, but cowardice, so I stand here in solidarity alongside the families making a sacrifice for their own children and families at the border.”

Ines Diez, a legal immigrant from Spain 14 years ago, huddled and fasted in a wire cage at the curbside of Siskiyou Boulevard, her face buried in her arms. A few passing cars honked in encouragement. She said, “I feel really strongly about children being separated from their parents.”

About to break his three-day fast, Rick Schmitt said, “When I was growing up, I was taught this was the land of the free and home of the brave, but since then, I discovered there’s a lot of cowardly and fearful people here who just want to divide us. I hope people are beginning to wake up and see we’ve lost our dignity by how we treat people and consider them the ‘other.’”

News reports Friday say 528 children remain in detention, separated from parents — of whom 328 were deported without their children, all in violation of the order of a federal court in San Diego to reunite separated children. Suits against the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy were brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Marchers gathered Friday for a simple breaking of their fast at Pioneer Hall, with Dagoberto Morales of Unete saying a benediction, mentioning that “many people want to blame the victims” in the tragedy.

The rolling fast-protest has been taken up in many cities and heads Monday to Seattle, then to Washington D.C. on Aug. 30, said protester Laura Davis of Ashland, noting it was started by women of Oakland, California.

As she hugged lifelong social justice activist and Ashland resident Dot Fisher-Smith at the end of the fast, Fairhurst said, “These parents are seeking asylum as an act of desperation You can die in the harm that comes at the border. You finally get there and someone rips your 1-year-old from your arms. It’s a deep shame and people of good heart have stepped up and said ‘no.’”

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Photo by John DarlingFrom left, Methodist Rev. Richenda Fairhurst, Dot Fisher-Smith, Rick Schmitt and Julie Schmitt head from Triangle Park to Pioneer Hall on Friday.
Photo by John DarlingFrom left, Methodist Rev. Richenda Fairhurst, Dot Fisher-Smith, and Julie Schmitt at Triangle Park in Ashland on Friday.