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Local Protesters Rally Against Statewide Refugee Block

Sarah Fentem

Close to 80 protestors gathered in West Lafayette today to march in protest of Governor Mike Pence’s recent order blocking the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Indiana.

Kathleen O’Connor, herself the grandchild of refugees from Ireland, say Pence’s withdrawal of funding to state agencies that help Syrian refugees relocate is antithetical to American ideals.

“Our country has been so enriched by the refugees and immigrants that have come,” she says. “I don’t see how we can shut the door.”

Protestors held a similar demonstration in Fort Wayne earlier this week and one is planned in Bloomington this weekend.

Protestors marched from the Purdue University campus to the Tippecanoe County Courthouse, where activists like Tihti Bhattacharya called for protestors to lobby their congresspeople to oppose the ban.

“Even though this is a small town in Indiana, today we’re standing in solidarity with hundreds of thousands of people who are refusing to go with the politicians and their government, and are standing, like us, in the cold, welcoming Syrian refugees,” Bhattacharya spoke into a megaphone, standing in the frigid air on the courthouse steps.

Protestors included many Purdue students as well as representatives from the Unitarian and Catholic religious communities.

The activists are also calling for the mayors of Lafayette and West Lafayette to sign a petition to Congress urging lawmakers to not take any action barring Syrian resettlement.

Governor Mike Pence’s office, when reached for comment today said the rallies have not swayed Pence’s views. The governor maintains that until more stringent vetting policies are enacted, he’ll take what he views to be the safest course of action.

About Pence’s claim that security measures need to be tightened, Sheila Rosenthal said, “I think he’s barking up the wrong tree….Some could be increased, but for the most part these families that are seeking refuge have security checks and those families shouldn’t be made to wait even longer.”

In a letter to the state’s congress, Pence pointed out the majority of the nation’s governors had blocked resettlement, and he’s not in any way calling for a permanent moratorium on Syrian immigration.

The event was put together by the Purdue Social Justice Coalition, Students for Justice in Palestine, the Lafayette Area Peace Coalition and the Lafayette Chapter of Moral Mondays.

Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the petition the mayors are implored to sign as one from member of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which was in fact sent to congress last month.

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