Interfaith group gathers in Athens to protest immigration crackdown

About 200 people of many faiths gathered Friday evening at Athens-Clarke County City Hall to protest the Trump administration’s anti-immigration dragnet.


Speakers on the steps of city hall represented large Athens Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian congregations, as well as Quakers, Jews, Catholics and other faiths. Some in the crowd spoke of losing co-workers, neighbors and friends to immigration authorities.

One speaker, Athens’ Al Huda Islamic Center Imam Adel Amer, is himself a migrant, he said.

Amer, a professor of religion at the University of Georgia, spoke of the fear some children have when they leave for school in the morning; that when the bus brings them home from school, their mother or father might not be there.

“It’s a whole system that needs to be changed,” he said.

Some at the protest asked that the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office desist in cooperating with federal authorities by holding jailed immigrants longer that needed so immigration officials can take custody of them.

“We are all made by the same God with his own hands, in his own holy image,” said Chris Conley, chair of the missions committee of Athens First Baptist Church.

Early Baptists were immigrants and refugees, persecuted in Europe and banished from Massachusetts, surviving because Native Americans gave them food, he said.

“Thank you for being willing to stand up for justice during a dark period of history,” another speaker, Interfaith Sanctuary Coalition member Joel Sebentritt, told the crowd before young people distributed candles and helped people light them.

They also helped distribute a statement from the Interfaith Sanctuary Coalition asking for ‘hospitality, safety and opportunities for all immigrants, regardless of status, to participate fully in our shared community.”

“In faithful witness we affirm the truth that no human is illegal,” the statement reads in part.