SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - A crowd of more than 200 people gathered in Spiotta Park at 5 p.m. on Tuesday evening, Feb. 6, to urge the Township of South Orange to pass a resolution that it a sanctuary city, and as organizers explained, "to stand with immigrant and Muslim communities."
Kelly Quirk, one of the rally organizers, spoke to the crowd first, stating, “we are here tonight asking the Trustees in South Orange, particularly on the Legal and Personnel Committee, to make South Orange a sanctuary community for all. We stand in solidarity with our immigrant communities, both documented and undocumented, and urge the South Orange Board of Trustees to declare the Township of South Orange a Sanctuary City.”
Quirk also stated that those assembled stand with the "twenty-percent of our community who are foreign born," adding that no one should be targeted because they “look, sound, or worship differently."
Several speakers addressed the crowd, expressing concern for local refugees and also sharing personal stories about how the recent executive order regarding travel from seven countries has impacted their families.
Maplewood Mayor Vic De Luca said he was “happy to join hundreds of SOMA and other folks rallying for South Orange to join other towns in safeguarding the rights of undocumented immigrants. The police will do their normal job, but will not be involved in implementing ICE rules for deportation of law abiding people."
Other towns considering adopting Maplewood's resolution (Resolution No. 3-17, "Expressing Maplewood's Commitment to Equal, Respectful, and Dignified Treatment of All People, Regardless of their Immigration Status and to Remain a Welcoming Community), are Madison, Highland Park, Livingston and Roselle, said De Luca.
Sheena Collum, South Orange Village President, addressed the crowd, stating, “we are with you, and are just starting the fight." Collum was accompanied to the microphone by South Orange Village Trustees Deborah Davis Ford and Walter Clarke, who are both members of the Legal and Personnel Committee,
Also present at the rally were South Orange Village Trustees Steve Schnall and Jeff DuBowy Collum stated that the Legal and Personnel Committee would be checking to enusre that the proclamation is crafted with legal issues in mind, and with protections for South Orange. Collum added that she was looking forward to seeing the South Orange residents at the Legal and Personnel Committee meeting, which took place directly following the rally.
Ashraf Latif, a South Orange resident of 28 years and the Emir of NIA Masjid in Newark, spoke at the rally about raising his four children in South Orange. He related that one of his daughters called him to ask that South Orange provide sanctuary for all its residents.
Latif said, "stand up firmly for justice, it’s not a choice. It comes only from love. It is a shared humanity regardless of one's background. No one is above justice, no one is excluded."
The rally concluded and the group marched towards the meeting of the Personnel and Legal Committee at the Baird while chanting, “No Wall, No Ban."