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Interfaith Witness for Human Rights: Candlelight Vigil at Tent City Jail

General Assembly 2012 Event 438

Program Description

Standing on the Side of Love—Stop the Incarceration and Human Rights Abuses of Migrants!

Over 2,000 people are being held at Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s infamous Tent City Jail. Another 6,000 people are being held in other Maricopa County jails in the same areas, south of W. Durango St. To date over 427,000 inmates have gone through Tent City Jail where people are crowded together on wooden planks in broiling heat in the summer and freezing cold in the winter.

This facility represents the worst of a culture of cruelty perpetrated in the name of the U.S. government and is a key component of the federal system of mass detention and deportation. With the passage of SB1070 and copycat laws around the country, and the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement ‘Secure Communities program,’ the climate of fear has reached crisis proportions.

We will Shine a Light on the human rights abuses here in Arizona and across the nation! We stand on the side of love.

Hear Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) President Rev. Peter Morales, United Church of Christ General Minister & President Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, other interfaith clergy, and local UU and human rights leaders.

Join in witness, prayer, song, and testimonials.

Reports from UU World

Video Coverage by Occupy Phoenix

Occupy Phoenix hosted streaming video from the Candlelight Vigil at Tent City Jail.

In the Media


Opening Remarks

SPEAKER: Right now I have the honor of introducing two of the most inspirational people in my life and in the life of many here in Arizona and all across the nation. I present to you Carlos Garcia from Puente and Reverend Susan Frederick.

REVEREND FREDERICK: You all look beautiful! Welcome to Phoenix! I just got back—I just went on a tour through Tent City with Sheriff Arpaio. And I can't tell you how much better it feels to be out here with all of you, and all your candles. Put 'em up! It looks so—Ahhh! Here in Arizona, this culture of cruelty that's been going on for 20 years at Tent City has been the breeding ground that's allowed 1070 to happen, and a. Culture of cruelty aimed at neighbors, aimed at communities, aimed at families. And only love has the power to overcome that fear, and to overcome that cruelty. And we are standing on the side of love. We are living in the circle of love. And we are going to push that boulder up that mountain. And we are going to create a new day for Arizona, a new day for the United States.

GARCIA: Buenos noches. [INAUDIBLE] good night everyone.

CROWD: Buenos noches!

GARCIA: This is beautiful to see. For 20 years now, suffering's been happening about 100 yards from here. And there's still suffering going on today. But the sacrifice you're making, the sacrifice of being out here—I know it's hot, I know it's taking a lot. A lot of you come from different places, how to meet expenses, leave family to come here—that's just a little bit of what our communities go through everyday. So thank you for being here.


GARCIA: From the bottom of our hearts, our community thanks you. And this makes all the difference in the world. So thank you so much. And remember that this is going to change Arizona forever. And we're going to shut Tent City down. Thank you.

CROWD: Shut it down! Shut it down!


REVEREND FREDERICK: You know, they can hear us in there!It is now my pleasure to introduce the person who helped make all of this happen. By caring so much about this issue that when SB1070 was passed, he called me. He said, I'm coming to Arizona. And you brought the Unitarian Universalists with you. The Reverend Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

Speaker Rev. Peter Morales

REVEREND MORALES: Ah, buenos noches.

CROWD: Buenos noches!

REVEREND MORALES: Susan and I, and Bill Schulz and Joffrey Black, and Maria Hinojosa, and Leslie Takahashi-Morris—did I leave anybody out? We just went through a tour, as she said, of Tent City. It is the kind of sight I would expect to see only in a fascist country, in a military state. And the sad thing is, that this is going to be a long struggle.

Hold those lights up one more time. Those lights have to go back to Alabama and Missouri and Massachusetts and Oregon and California.

CROWD: Wooo!

REVEREND MORALES: And everywhere in between. The key is now that you have seen what you have seen, that we have seen what we have seen, learned what we are learning now. We have to take it home. We have to build coalitions at home. We have to turn this around. I am angry, but even more than angry, I am so sad that this can exist in my country today.

CROWD: Amen!


REVEREND MORALES: Bear witness as religious people, bear witness. Thank you so much. Take this with you. I now want to introduce the Reverend Joffrey Black, president of a denomination bigger than ours. He's been so good to come with some of his staff. He went on the tour with us. He's a champion, as we are. The UCC is a champion for compassion and human rights. The Reverend Joffrey Black.


Speaker Rev. Joffrey Black

REVEREND BLACK: I want you to know that when I look out on this crowd, I get pumped. And I need to get closer to the mic, they tell me. But I get pumped, and that just gives fire to my spirit of being persistent. I want to tell you some things about how change comes about. Not that you don't already know it, but just to remind you about how change happens. Change does not happen overnight. People have to be persistent. We have to come back again and again and again.

Because there's a man in that prison who is in our face, saying he doesn't care that we're here. That his story is stronger and more powerful than ours. And as my colleague just reminded you, we need to take this message throughout the nation. Because what we're looking at in that prison is a national disgrace. And we should all be ashamed.

So I am urging you tonight, take the fire, take the light, take it every place you go. And let people know what is going on in their name, in their country. That human rights are being violated in gross ways. And that we cannot stand by. We know what happens when people stand by and say we didn't know what's going on. We have a history of that, that we can recall. And we know what needs to happen if we're going to stop it.

And that means that every one of us has to make this a personal issue, a personal issue. Knowing that there are people in that prison that are being treated like dogs. But they are our sisters and brothers. They're being treated worse than animals. They are our sisters and brothers. That's the contradiction that we cannot allow to continue.

So I urge you to find the allies. You found one in me, and the United Church of Christ. We are going to stand with you. And we will join you. When you come back, we're coming back with you. And the only thing I'll say is that there's a sea of yellow shirts out there tonight. When we come with you, there will be an ocean of red shirts with you. Good night.


REVEREND MORALES: We are so not alone in this struggle. I want to introduce now the Reverend Doctor Warren Stewart, who's pastor of the First Institutional Baptist Church in Phoenix, and chair of the Home Mission Board of the National Baptist Convention. He also chairs the board of National Immigration Forum. He's widely recognized by others as a man of conscience, commitment, and dedication to the cause of moral leadership, human rights, and a soldier of justice and equity. Dr. Stewart.

Speaker Rev. Doctor Warren Stewart

DR. STEWART: Thank you, Mr. President. Are there any soldiers of justice out there? Let me hear the soldiers of justice out there! On behalf of all of us in the Valley of the Sun, we thank you for coming to pick up and share our cause for justice. To paraphrase a two-term former President who made a statement nearly 25 years ago this month, "Sheriff Joe, Sheriff Joe, tear down Tent City! Tear down Tent City! Tear down Tent City!

CROWD: Tear down Tent City!

DR. STEWART: Tear down Tent City! Tear down Tent City! And if Sheriff Joe will not tear it down, President Obama, tear down Tent City!

CROWD: Tear down Tent City!

DR. STEWART: Let me share something else with you. Just a few blocks down the street is the Maricopa County Animal Shelter. No animals in that shelter are forced to stay outside in 110 degrees Arizona heat. They are all kept in permanent housing with air conditioning. Why, Sheriff Joe, why Sheriff Joe, why are you here and take pride in Tent City? Which has been and always been an ungodly, inhumane, unjust display of your insatiable arrogance.

Joe, it's all about you and nobody else. You regretfully remind us of a scripture in the Bible in Revelation 22:15 that says, outside the city are the dogs, and all who love to live a lie. Sheriff Joe, for 20 years your reign of error and reign of terror have been nothing but living a lie. You have lived a lie of professional policing. You have lived a lie of keeping the peace. You have lived a lie of ensuring liberty and justice in Maricopa County.

And to my brothers and sisters in Tent City. Let our brothers and sisters hear a big yell for them in Tent City.

CROWD: Wooo!

DR. STEWART: Let them know that we're with them out here! Let them know that we're with them out here! Come on! Come on! Rack it up! Let them know that we're here!


DR. STEWART: Come on! You can do better than that! Come on! Give them a big cheer! Let them know that we are here! We're outside with them! Let me give a message to them, and I'm through.

To our brothers and sisters who are jailed in Tent City, red, yellow, black, brown and white—we are all precious in God's sight. And we are with you in spirit. We are with you in love. We are with you in peace. We are with you in hope. We are with you in justice. We are with you in protest on this night.

For you see, as Jesus Christ said in Matthew 25, when they asked him, the righteous, when he commended them, and told them to go to the right, they asked, when we did we feed the hungry? When did we clothe the naked? When did we visit the sick? When we did we comfort those in prison? And Jesus said, you did it when you did it to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, over in Tent City! We are with you. We are with you! And God is with you!

Somos con ustedes! Somos con ustedes! Y Dios es con ustedes! Hallelujah! Amen! Hallelujah! Amen! Hallelujah!

CROWD: Amen!—with you! We are with you! We are with you! We are with you! We are—


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