Mansfield Weekly Social Justice Vigil calls for dialogue about current national debates

Members of the Mansfield community, some of them former E.O. Smith teachers, gather on the sidewalk in Storrs Center for a peaceful demonstration in support of social justice, refugees, immigrants, and health care for all. The vigils take place weekly on Wednesdays from 4:30-5:30. (Olivia Stenger/The Daily Campus)

Members of the Mansfield community, some of them former E.O. Smith teachers, gather on the sidewalk in Storrs Center for a peaceful demonstration in support of social justice, refugees, immigrants, and health care for all. The vigils take place weekly on Wednesdays from 4:30-5:30. (Olivia Stenger/The Daily Campus)

On Wednesday afternoons, the group Mansfield Weekly Social Justice Vigils calls for respectful dialogue about current national debates such as immigration and LGBTQ  rights with a vigil on the sidewalk in front of E.O. Smith High School.

The weekly social vigils began as a response to  President Donald Trump’s statements about topics such as transgender bathroom rights and refugees, Social Justice Vigil founder Jennifer Stone said in an email. The vigils began in February, stopped in the summer and started again in September.

“After the inauguration, my husband and I emailed everyone we could think of, inviting them to postcard writing party to write postcards to various people in the government expressing our fears and concerns about Trump Administration policies,” Stone said.

Stone stated that the group wanted to host an activity beyond their postcard writing campaign, with a big visual impact and opportunities for the community to participate.

“We do this vigil for a few reasons. It is important to speak out against injustice when we can. Silence is the voice of complicity,” Stone said. “We hope to inspire others and to show those who are feeling anger, fear and despair at the state of the country right now that they are not alone.”

Stone said the vigil highlights current national debates about topics such as immigration and global climate change. It gives an ordinary person a voice in decisions that affect their lives, Stone said.

“We hope to have respectful dialogue with those whose ideas may be different from ours,” Stone said. “We are trying to show that there is a community here that supports truth and social justice; that believes affordable health care is/should be a right for all of us, that accepts that climate change is real and should be acted upon; that believes conflicts with other nations should be resolved with diplomacy, not threats and violence; that feels compassion for those who are suffering and that supports refugees and immigrants who have given up their home countries to try to build a safer and better life here.”

Liza Escott, an English teacher at E.O. Smith High School, held signs with peace symbols and the quote “Honk if you support.”

“It's important to be a role model for my students and to show them what nonviolent protest and support looks like,” Escott said.

Stephanie Loughran, a retired teacher from E.O Smith High School, came with a poster that said “Dreamers are welcome.”

“The nice thing about retirement is that I have time to pursue my interests. I'm interested in the dreamers, all those who came to this country with their parents,” Loughran said. “It's the only home they remember. They work hard and they are part of this country.”

Vigil attendee Pam Wheeler held a sign with a picture of planet Earth.

“We all share one planet Earth,” Wheeler said. “We can't afford to mess up our only planet.”


Rachel Philipson is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at rachel.philipson@uconn.edu.