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Crowd honors victims of concurrent disasters — COVID-19, wildfires and hurricanes, and police violence

Standing near the Yasui family’s Peace Tower on Pine Street, just under three dozen people — members of the Lycoming County Democrats, Lycoming County Progressives and supporters, stood silently Saturday morning to honor all of the people whose lives have been lost in concurrent disasters facing the nation.

“We are here today, on this morning, this very sad morning,” Hemmendinger, organizer of the vigil said, “when we are remembering the almost 200,000 Americans who have died in the last six months from the coronavirus. More than half of them would probably still be alive had we had decent leadership that followed science.”

Speaking in an interview after the event, Hemmendinger said, “We wanted to make that known and to encourage people to use their best non-violent action that they can which is to be a voter in the current election. … We wanted to honor the people whose lives were lost and to carry the torch forward.”

All members of the group attending the vigil wore masks and stood socially distanced as much as possible at the outdoor venue.

“There were a lot of people in town, it was very socially distanced and people were happy to be around each other,” she said. “It’s a trying time for everybody to be more isolated than usual.”

Hemmendinger noted it was significant that the vigil, which was billed as a “silent witness to life” was held at the site of the memorial.

Dr. Robert Yasui was a local surgeon whose family was interred in a camp during World War II because of their ethnicity.

“They were minorities who were American citizens and immigrants to our country,” Hemmendinger said. “They were detained because of a supposed threat.”

“This also highlights the fact that we have racial injustice continuing against people of color and immigrants to our country,” she added. “It was a fitting place to hold this vigil to honor all of the people whose lives have been impacted.”

Barb Jarmoska, a progressive who attended the vigil, agreed with Hemmendinger.

“What happened with the Yasui family is in so many ways a hallmark of what is happening at our southern border today where we still have children in cages and children separated from their parents. That we have as a nation not learned the lessons from history and we are repeating them,” Jarmoska said.

Hemmendinger said that the group also had literature about the Democratic candidates on the ballot in November as well as some political signs. She noted that all of these were given away.

“I think that says something about Pennsylvania. Progressive voices in this are more visible and more indivisible,” she said.

Jarmoska said that she felt by standing silently together, the group was sending a powerful message.

“There are those of us who ascribe to a different view of politics and of life and of priorities. It’s important to be seen, it’s important to be visible,” she said.

“I think silence often speaks volumes compared to the counterpart,” Jarmoska said. “Especially in the age of COVID, standing silently in a predominately socially distanced way outdoors, wearing masks and not screaming and shouting or singing, I think it looks appropriate. I think it was respectful of passers-by. I think it was respectful of the challenges we are currently facing.”

A vigil was also held Saturday in front of the Federal Building, to honor Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away on Friday.

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