Hundreds gathered downtown Monday in Thanksgiving Square for a solidarity vigil in support of refugees and protesting President Trump’s executive order restricting travel from several Muslim countries. East Dallas’ Chris Hamilton and Lake Highlands’ Jason Clarke were two of the featured speakers. Both work closely with refugees and immigrants in Dallas.

The candle-wielding audience provided the only light in the square, creating a reverent, church-like atmosphere. The crowd extended from a small stage up the surrounding embankments and filled the skywalk above the square. Participants held “This is not OK” and “We Got Love” signs aloft while listening to messages of hope, support and resistance.

A plaque on the wall of the square reads from Psalm 100, “Enter his gates with Thanksgiving and his courts with praise.” For those in attendance, there hasn’t been much to be thankful for lately, but the gathering was hopeful, even in lament.

Clarke is the director of Seek the Peace, an organization that works with and develops leaders for peace amongst the refuge community in Vickery Meadow. He has worked with the Dallas refugee population for several years, and delivered an emotional monologue prioritizing mutual humanity and love.

“Look around,” Clarke said, competing with news helicopters reverberating off the downtown buildings. “We have shown up tonight. This is just the beginning of a fight we will have to get comfortable with. Get off your couch, turn off the TV, and stand next to your neighbors.” (Hear above video for full speech.)

Vigil at Thanksgiving Square in Dallas. Photo by Emily Charrier

Clarke’s colorful language kept the crowd rapt as he spoke. “Our heart beats for all those in need. We are a lighthouse signaling the stranger, choosing the principles of mutual humanity. Living any other way deepens divides and fills history with the scars of injustice.”

Clarke’s message was one of reaching across cultural lines and fighting for unity. “We need voices of all colors and creeds to build bridges of brotherly love and mutual humanity. We need to proclaim the image of God on every man, woman and child. We are home of the free, land of the brave, but this is not freedom and is far from brave,” he said. “We need to immerse ourselves in the worlds of others and restore what injustice has undone.”

Hamilton, who has been busy at DFW airport as part of the legal team working to release detained travelers from the banned countries, followed with a passionate speech of his own. “We have lawyers working around the clock and coordinating at a national level with those who are detained across the country,” he said. “We will be there as long as we need to be there.”

Hamilton implored the audience to not take our civil rights for granted. “We need to fight any encroachment on your constitutional rights. If they put a toe over the line, we will be there to fight it.”

“We got those people out of the airport because of people like you,” Hamilton encouraged.“There will be a lot of refusing to go home when we get told to go home over the next few years, and we lawyers will be here to back you.”

Hamilton ended his speech with an entreaty to “follow the law and respect law enforcement. They are not our enemies, and a lot of these folks are on our side.”

The evening concluded with the crowd joining in to sing of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” which served as a solemn yet hopeful hymn. With candles swaying in unison, the crowd sang, “I hope some day you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.”

—By Will Maddox

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