Opening Ceremony ends with outdoor rally

The Opening Ceremony of the Justice General Assembly spilled out onto the streets of Phoenix, Ariz., Wednesday night, as hundreds of Unitarian Universalists processed from the Convention Center to Heritage Square singing, “Freedom is Coming.”

At a park one block away, people gathered for the outdoor conclusion of the first-night events, filling the plaza with close to 1,000 people.

Members of Somos America, a coalition of organizations advocating for migrant rights, stood on the back of a flatbed truck to extend a welcome. “Thank you for being here,” said Lydia Guzman, who runs the Respect-Respeto hotline. Margarito Blanco told the crowd he looked forward to worshipping and witnessing with them.

Arizona Immigration Ministry Witness Event

The UU Arizona Immigration Ministry held a witness event with Arizona UU congregations, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, Los Comités de Defensa del Barrio, and Somos America on Wednesday, June 20. (©Nancy Pierce)

Sylvia Herrera, community organizer with Tonatierra and Los Comites de Defensa del Barrio, urged the crowd to fight to protect the three Rs: respect, rights, and responsibilities. She said it was the responsibility of visitors to Arizona to take these lessons home and stop the spread of hate.

UUA Moderator Gini Courter addressed the crowd alternately in Spanish and English. “It’s time for love to show up,” she said. “Look with love in the eyes of the person sitting next to you and say we will make a difference. Starting here. Starting now.”

Pablo Alvarado, president of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, and UUA President Peter Morales, also addressed the crowd on the hot Phoenix night, as they had an hour earlier in the convention center. “Viva la lucha,” Alvarado said. “Live the struggle.”

Morales said that this was but one chapter in the struggle for migrants’ rights, and the true test was what the people gathered Wednesday night will be doing three months from now and five years from now in their congregations and communities. Morales bid the crowd “Buenos noches,” and the opening festivities of the Justice GA came to a conclusion.

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