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The Commons
Photo 1

Jeff Potter/The Commons

Dozens of people gathered outside Centre Congregational Church in Brattleboro on Sunday to protest an executive order signed two days before by President Donald Trump.


'You are welcome here'

Brattleboro vigil shows support for those targeted by executive order on immigration

Originally published in The Commons issue #393 (Wednesday, February 1, 2017). This story appeared on page A1.

BRATTLEBORO—On Jan. 27, President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order on immigration that prohibited the entry of Syrian refugees to the U.S. indefinitely, put a hold on all refugee admissions for 120 days, and blocked citizens of the majority-Muslim nations of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the U.S. for at least 90 days.

Protests soon erupted throughout the country, from airports in metropolitan areas such Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Seattle, and Los Angeles, to town squares in Keene, New Hampshire, and Montpelier.

Among those protests was an afternoon vigil Jan. 29 in front of Centre Congregational Church on Main Street.

“I was feeling incredibly overwhelmed yesterday with the executive orders that have been made throughout the last few days,” protest organizer Tracy Murphy said.

She wasn’t alone.

A member of the church, Murphy reached out to its pastor, the Rev. Bert Marshall, the night before to arrange the event.

Within 10 minutes, the two came up with a plan.

Despite its short notice, Murphy’s cause attracted more attendees than either she or Marshall expected.

“We said we would be satisfied with 20 people, but we really had no idea,” Marshall said with a laugh.

The actual turnout? About 100 participants. The crowd spanned diverse demographics and included Christians and non-Christians alike.

Members of the protest held signs that read, “Jesus was a refugee,” “Peace,” and “You are welcome here,” among many others, some with drawings of the Statue of Liberty.

On the morning of the protest, Marshall delivered a sermon at the church, speaking on themes of immigration and refugee care in the Bible.

“There is a long biblical tradition about welcoming the stranger and the sojourners in your land,” Marshall said in a phone interview.

In his sermon, he referenced Leviticus 19:33-34: “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.”

Murphy explained that she felt she had a moral obligation, as a Christian, to participate in these organizing efforts.

“I’m hoping to challenge the narrative that all Christians are like [those supporting Trump],” she said. “I would hope we can see other faith traditions as diverse and beautiful. This is the good work.”

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