Originally published June 28, 2020 to the Virginia Defender Facebook page. Later run in the Summer 2020 edition of the Virginia Defender newspaper, printed August 14.
By Kat McNeal
A multiracial crowd of nearly 75 people gathered last night at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond near Byrd Park to commemorate the second anniversary of a young immigrant mother taking sanctuary at the church to avoid deportation.
It’s now been two years since Abbie Arevalo-Herrera took refuge at the church after being threatened by the U.S. government with forcible removal to her native Honduras, which she fled after her life was threatened by her now-divorced husband. The strain of living with two children in a church basement is now compounded by the coronavirus pandemic and the tensions resulting from police repression of the city’s Black Lives Matter protests.
At the commemoration, Arevalo-Herrera spoke about the serious difficulties of being confined during the quarantine. She remarked that, though this has been very difficult, it is worth it to her to remain with her children. She described how many people are without the support that she has been receiving, unable to pay their rent, buy food, seek medical care, etc., on top of the daily racism and discrimination endured in Virginia.
She also spoke about anti-Black racism and violence from within the Latinx community and the need to combat these elements. “We immigrants are not going to be free until everyone is free,” she said. “We have a responsibility of solidarity toward our Black neighbors. We also must remember that our Latino immigrant community includes Black Latinos.”
Also speaking, by Internet connection, was Princess Blanding, sister of Marcus-David Peters, the young African-American biology high school teacher fatally shot by a Richmond police officer in May 2018 while experiencing a mental health crisis. Representing Justice & Reformation, Blanding spoke about that organization’s updated list of demands, including the need to defund the police and redirect that money to systems of community care, which she said need to be expanded to benefit our immigrant communities.
“An injustice to one of us is an injustice to all of us,” Blanding said. “Justice & Reformation will continue to stand in solidarity with Abbie and continue to speak out against this injustice. Our love and support is with Abbie, our immigrant community and our Latinx community.”
Also speaking were incoming UU president Denise Rimes; members of New Virginia Majority, a nonprofit organization promoting immigrant rights in the city; and several community activists.
Present but not speaking were a number of elected officials, including state Sens. Jennifer McClellan and Ghazala Hashmi and Delegate Dawn Adams.
For more information on Abbie Arevalo-Herrera, including how you can help, see the Facebook page “Hands Off Abbie.”
Categories: No Hay Fronteras en la Lucha de Los Obreros