BEND, Ore. - Dozens of immigration activists and others gathered for a candlelight vigil in downtown Bend Saturday night near a fire-stricken church to denounce what police said appears to be the work of a serial arsonist.
Those in attendance were greeting the return of a "March for One Oregon" bus tour that had staged a rally and left from Trinity Episcopal Church early Tuesday, on a trip to several Central and Eastern Oregon communities, to meet with farm workers and others while calling for "fair and just" immigration reform.
They left the church less than a day before the fires early Wednesday that hit the church's two buildings, as well as detached garages, cars and a wood pile in the area.
Police have announced a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to suspects in the case. As the investigation continues, they have not yet said how the fires were started or whether there are any indications of a motive, only that they appear to have been intentionally set by the same person or people.
Here is a news release issued by Causa and other groups involved in the immigration effort late Saturday night:
The March for ONE Oregon Tour Bus arrived in Bend a little before 9:00pm tonight. Riders were met by Bend residents for a candlelight vigil for Trinity Episcopal Church – the community church that was set on fire and vandalized by arsonists early Wednesday morning.
Tonight, over 50 people turned out in freezing temperatures to speak out against the act of violence and reaffirm that they will not be silenced in the fight for justice, humanity and fair immigration reform.
Here are some quotes from the vigil tonight:
- Yesenia Sanchez of St. Helena says, "When we were marching with the United Farmworkers, we prayed to love those who hate us so we can make change in the world."
- Daniel Jeppesen from University of Portland says, "as soon as I heard about the fire, I identified the church as my own. After the incredible sendoff with food, dancing and blessings, I felt responsible to do something."
- Gary Harris of Roseburg says, "The fire they started here will never be put out in our hearts. They only made us stronger."
Tomorrow morning a service will be held at the First Methodist Church to continue the message of support and love for the Trinity Episcopal Church Community and Bend Residents.
Sunday, March 10th 9am
Trinity's service will take place at First United Methodist Church
One block east and north of Trinity at 680 NW Bond Street
Statement of Support for Trinity Episcopal Church by the March for One Oregon
The riders on the March for One Oregon were shocked and deeply saddened when we heard about the arson fires suffered by Trinity Episcopal Church and its neighbors Wednesday morning. We had just experienced the gracious hospitality and generosity of the Trinity community in hosting our training meeting Monday evening and our very successful send-off rally Tuesday afternoon.
We are a group of diverse Oregonians marching for a fair and just immigration policy. Some of us have indigenous blood; most of us are descendants of immigrants if not immigrants ourselves. We are ages one to 75, with just about every age group in between. We are from all genders and sexual orientations. We live in economic conditions from impoverished to comfortable. We come from and practice many different religious, spiritual and humane paths, seeking to live out our commitment to compassionate service.
Trinity Episcopal Church has shown extraordinary courage to remain devoted to its long-standing tradition of feeding, clothing and assisting people made poor, homeless and marginalized in our community. This work is an inspiring example of true service to the source of love and compassion that moves us to do this work.
We stand in solidarity with the members and leaders of the Trinity community as part of our One Oregon community as they struggle to face the challenges and difficulties certain to follow this horrific act of violence.
We denounce this and all acts of violence and insist on a timely and rigorous investigation by our local and state officials.
We also refuse to allow this act to deter us from our mission to create One Oregon, all working in Solidarity to bring human dignity to every person. We are determined to ensure that a stronger and better Oregon community arises from this tragedy.