Kern Community Unites for Candlelight Vigil

Candlelight vigil procession makes its way to Rep. McCarthy's house.

See video and photos on Facebook.

Over 100 community members came together for a march and candlelight vigil at Congressman Kevin McCarthy’s home in southwest Bakersfield. The energized crowd gathered in a nearby shopping center and marched to the Congress member’s house holding signs, candles, and American flags. SEIU Local 521 CEO Riko Mendez and 521 members joined the Feb. 23 action, along with people from Health Access, Planned Parenthood, Faith in the Valley, Dolores Huerta Foundation, and United Farm Workers Foundation and other community organizations.

“I would much rather meet our Congress member at his office, but he locks his doors. I’d rather meet him at a town hall, but he refuses to attend. I want to talk to him on the radio, but he won’t take calls,” said Imelda Ceja-Butkiewicz, a Public Health Project Specialist with Kern County and President of the Central Labor Council.  “I would like to have dinner with him, but I can’t afford $10,000 for a seat at the table,” she said, referring to a recent fundraiser Rep. McCarthy held in Bakersfield.

The crowd gathered peacefully and respectfully outside McCarthy’s neighborhood as members of the crowd took turns talking about why the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and immigration are such critical issues in the Central Valley. 30 million Americans are at risk of losing their healthcare and millions of families will be torn apart if we don’t change course. Our candlelight procession is a strong statement to McCarthy that the actions being taken in Washington, D.C. do not reflect our community’s values.

Francisco Martinez, a Social Service worker III at the Kern County Department of Human Services, talked about his faith and how that was guiding his actions. “At this moment of fear and anxiety, we urge our clergy and faith communities to speak and act boldly in solidarity with our people. To defend our families and protect our values, we must build political power. We must change the electorate to reflect our communities, through massive efforts to reach out to tens of millions of voters who are ignored and taken for granted by candidates and parties.”

When the speakers finished, the crowd lined up and did a silent procession through McCarthy’s neighborhood past his home. Rep. McCarthy and the Trump Administration are putting lives at risk by taking health care away from seniors, workers, and families. Ripping healthcare away from millions of Americans means chaos. Families are being torn apart, immigrants are being unfairly detained, and shockwaves of raids have families afraid even in their homes. Attacks on immigrants are attacks on the inclusive community we’ve built together.

We hope Congressman Kevin McCarthy will show courage and stand up to attacks on our healthcare and acts of hate toward immigrants.

Are you ready to stand up? Start here.

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