After lining the highway, Friday night’s protesters gathered on the lawn in front of the jail for a candlelight vigil.

GRAND ISLAND - More than 60 people gathered Friday evening to protest the way families are being treated at the country’s southern border.

At the beginning of the two-hour event, participants stood along Highway 30, not far from the Hall County Department of Corrections. Many of them held signs. They also chanted such things as “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here.”

They later held a candlelight vigil on the grass closer to the jail.

“We’re gathering because we’re upset about what we’re seeing at the southern border and in detention centers,” said organizer Lynn Zeleski of Hastings.

Their main concern is the mistreatment of children.

“We’re not real keen about the (mistreatment of) adults either, but the children are what really has hit our hearts, and things have to change,” Zeleski said.

Some of the ways to create change are by writing letters to the editor and writing letters to members of Congress, “which we have all done, and we have the right to protest as a way of communicating to our government. So we are protesting,” Zeleski said.

The vigil was meant to remember 700 people who’ve died trying to enter the U.S. from the south over the last decade, she said. Those people were “trying to get to us. They died before they reached us,” she said.

The protesters were members of six groups — the Grand Island Latino Network, Nebraskans for Peace, Central Nebraska Peace Workers, Hastings Good Neighbors, Central City Friends and Kearney Indivisible. The event was part of the national Lights for Liberty Vigil.

The protesters held signs that said, among other things, “Stop the national disgrace,” “Close the for-profit camps,” “Keep families together” and “Cruelty to asylum seekers is immoral, illegal and unAmerican.”

One of the attendees was Angie Philips of Omaha, who is running for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat.

“I think that these types of events are important, because our current representatives are not making statements and they’re being silent about the horrible treatment of the migrants at our southern border,” Philips said. “I called Ben Sasse’s office, and asked what he’ll do about it.”

The young man who answered the phone said he couldn’t speak for the senator. Philips was also not successful in obtaining the information she sought.

“I can’t get directed to any statement. I can’t get directed to any policy that he’s working on. And I just want people to know that if Sen. Sasse doesn’t have a plan, I do.”