EVERETT — A small crowd took to the streets of Everett on Sunday with a message of welcome for immigrants and refugees.
The group, about three dozen people, started at Trinity Episcopal Church on Hoyt Avenue and walked around several blocks, pausing for a photo in front of Everett High School, singing hymns and waving at passing drivers honking in support.
They came from several churches and carried signs in several languages: “Everett for everybody,” “Bienvenidos refugiados,” and “I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” the latter a passage from the Book of Matthew.
Sister Patrice O’Brien, a lay Franciscan member of the church, said the inspiration for the march was the Trump administration’s ban on admitting refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
“It was just kind of a jolt. I thought, ‘This is not the America I know,’” she said.
Her husband, Patrick O’Brien, said they were “just doing some walking and talking, more of a presence than anything else.”
The Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton said she also has felt motivated to take action, not just from the immigration ban but from watching how authorities have responded to protests at the Dakota Access oil pipeline and to the Black Lives Matter movement.
“To watch the increased militarization of what should be Officer Friendly,” she said, “they are confronting people who are not armed with weapons, but armed with burning sage and songs and prayer.”
The Dakota Access pipeline protests by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and others have drawn support from many faith groups across the country.
In Lynnwood on Sunday, Steven Greenebaum, minister of the Living Interfaith Church, led a march of about 35 people to Lynnwood City Hall to deliver a petition to Councilwoman Ruth Ross, asking the city to issue a proclamation in support of Standing Rock.
Greenebaum earlier traveled to the reservation in North Dakota as part of a larger group of about 500 clergy to protest both the potential environmental risks to the tribe’s drinking water supply and the desecration of lands the tribe considers sacred.
“Can you imagine the outcry if an oil company wanted to build a pipeline through the cemetery at Gettysburg?” he said.
Taber-Hamilton, who is a member of the Shackan Indian Band of British Columbia, said the irony is apparent as American society goes through an identity crisis with the latest group of immigrants, just as it did with each preceding group going back to the days of colonization.
Recognizing that oppression and violence were not the answer, the only response, she said, was “reconciliation, peace, love and radical welcome.”
The event at Trinity Episcopal brought together members of other churches. Pastor Tim Feiertag, of Trinity Lutheran Church a few blocks away, said he and Taber-Hamilton have been looking for areas of cooperation in ministry.
Trinity Lutheran had been taking part in several interfaith events lately, most recently a meeting with members of the Al-Mustafa Center mosque in Marysville to talk about how they could support each other.
“There’s a shared heritage, not just through Abraham, but through Jesus, Mary, Noah,” Feiertag said. “We have common language, we have common stories, we have common beliefs we can build on.”
After the march, Van Dinh-Kuno, the executive director of Refugee and Immigrant Services Northwest, told the group her personal story as a refugee from South Vietnam. She came to the U.S. as a teenager, got an education and went to work helping the next wave of immigrants find jobs, learn English and adapt to their new home.
“This country is very good to me and my family,” she said. “We don’t know if we’d be able to repay the generosity of the family that sponsored us.”
But the message Dinh-Kuno takes away from her own experience is the same one she conveys to immigrants now fearful of their status and futures under the new administration: contribute to the country, speak up, contact elected officials, stay strong and calm, and know they have rights.
“Don’t forget, in 1942 we put 135,000 Japanese into the camps. They were American citizens,” she said. “Don’t let that happen to us today.”