People gathered under a blazing afternoon sun on Saturday in Madisonville to protest the Trump Administration’s immigration policies.
The group met downtown near the confederate monument at the old courthouse in Madisonville, a town of 20,000 in Hopkins County that President Trump won with more than 75 percent of the vote. The predominantly white crowd carried signs that read "Silence Implies Consent" and "Stop Pretending Your Racism Is Patriotism." The Madisonville demostration coincided with others across the nation.
Debby Allen of Madisonville learned about the rally from her daughter in Louisville. "Even if there hadn't been anybody here I was gonna stand there by myself holding my sign," Allen said. She felt the family separation issue is "pure incompetence" from Washington. "And I'm mortified," she said. "Seeking asylum is not criminal."
Sarah Orange of Madisonville said she’s "deeply disturbed" by the practice of family separation. She said rallies in smaller communities are just as important as the ones in larger cities. "I feel like it’s really important to stand up for what you think is right, where you are, and show your own community what your values are," she said.
Patrick, who asked for his last name to be withheld due to fear of repercussion from his employer, said he was shocked when he learned about family separation at the border and by people who think it’s okay to use it as a deterrent. "To use children as a weapon against their parents is immoral. It's disgusting. and we don't have any choice but to stand up against it," Patrick said.
Democratic 1st Congressional Candidate Paul Walker was one of the featured speakers. He said it's not a crime "to seek refuge from oppression... violence... and fear" or to be poor or seek a better life for children. He said, however, it is a crime to be cruel, separate families, to detain without due process and to be unjust.
"We stand for kindness. We stand for compassion. We stand for love. That's who we are. We stand for progress. We stand for optimism. And equality. That's who we are," Walker said. "And when someone stand on our doorstep asking for help then we welcome them in and we give them help. That's who we are," he said, to applause.
Organizer Cody Lander, of the Pennyrile Pride Alliance, said he wants to make sure human decency is not forgotten amongst the most vulnerable in our society.
"The fact that we were able to have people come out for racial justice events, the fact that we have had people come out for immigration events is more than what has ever happened in the city prior," Lander said, comparing the progressive rally to the long-held conservative values of the community.
Lander said he and other organizers invited the local Hispanic community, but were told there was a reluctance to attend due to fear of possible retaliation in the workplace.
Megan Meyer describes herself as one of the leaders of Pennyroyal Indivisible and helped organize the rally. She brought her daughter Maya, who led chants with a megaphone. Meyer said of her daughter, "I can’t imagine not being away from my seven-year-old and know knowing where she is, if she’s safe, if she’s fed. I would lose my mind. I can’t even fathom how these mothers feel."
Meyer said though Madisonville is a relatively small community, she’s proud of the turnout. She said her group is holding another rally Monday at Grace Episcopal Church in nearby Hopkinsville at 6 p.m.