Concerned New Yorkers gathered at JFK International Airport’s Terminal 4 to protest President Trump’s executive order that barred entry into the United States refugees from seven majority Muslim countries. Photo by Cora Cervantes
“Let them In! Let them In!” roared thousands of New Yorkers outside of Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International airport.
Rez Iriqui, 36, from Long Island, watched nearby and listened intently as he held his young son over his shoulders.
“I am an immigrant,” he said. “I am not a protester. I work on Wall Street, but I am here because I am worried about the future of my children. Within the last five days we have seen things that I thought would never have happened in America.”
Iriqui and his family joined thousands of New Yorkers yesterday who gathered outside of Terminal 4 to express outrage over President Trump’s executive order banning travel into the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Early Saturday morning word spread that due to the new executive order issued by the Trump administration on Friday evening, travelers had been detained inside airports across the country and were not permitted entry into the country. Through posts and calls to action on social media a mass protest began to form at Terminal 4. Among the protesters were many immigrants who said they knew what was at stake for the refugees seeking shelter in America.
“I come from an immigrant background and an immigrant family,” said Farhan Hossain, 25, who came from Manhattan’s Flatiron district to join the demonstration. “I am here to stand in solidarity with refugees that are being detained. I am against a Trump regime that implements fascist measures that detain people indefinitely.”
The order barred entry into the United States to Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, seven majority Muslim countries that have been categorized as “countries of particular concern.” The order also suspended the United States refugee program for the next four months, outlines increased screenings and will prioritize Christian refugees. The seven countries listed are not responsible for any terrorist attacks in America. Opponents argue that the list can be construed as arbitrary and a conflict of interest since the list does not include Muslim-majority countries where the Trump Organization does business, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
By late afternoon protesters at JFK held signs that read “Let Them In,” and chanted “Resist, Fight Back, This is Our New York!” People remained outside the terminal late into the evening in spite of the cold temperatures. As the crowds grew the mood was tense but also filled with solidarity. Some protesters arrived with coffee, donuts, and hand warmers to show support for all those that had been protesting under cold weather conditions since noon.
“I am tremendously upset by what President Trump has done,” said Jessica Valentino, 28, who came out from Greenpoint, Brooklyn. “I am an adoptee, I came into the country when I was 3 months old…to think of all the families and other people trying to come here that no longer have that opportunity is absolutely heartbreaking.”
At 6:30 p.m. protesters kneeled and listened to updates concerning the state of those being detained. Across the street near the entrance to Terminal 4, which had been closed and was guarded by police in riot gear, Azi Amari, 37, from Brooklyn, held a sign up toward them.
“I am Iranian, I was going to travel in two weeks to visit my family in Iran.They all live there. Even though I am a green card holder. I cannot come back if I go,” she said “My family is so shocked. We are trying to figure what will happen next. Based on this new ban they are not allowed to come visit me. I think this is unfair. It is totally discrimination.”
At about 7:30 p.m. protesters received word that Judge Ann M. Donnelly had issued an emergency stay that halted deportations of those being detained. This ruling was based on a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of two individuals who had been detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport. The ruling addressed those being barred entry at airports in the United States, but does not address those who are trapped abroad.
As protesters marched around Terminal 4, some were heading to the courthouse to join others who wanted to be briefed following the ruling, including Mazeba Uddin, 50, Jamaica Hills, Queens and an immigrant from Bangladesh.
“We are strong together,” she said. “Our country, Our community is strong – Trump is not strong. Our millions of votes count, he needs to understand that.”
Protests at airports throughout the country are set to continue until those being detained are released.
A crowd of young women cheer as Donald Trump and Melania Trump are introduced. Photo by Cora Cervantes
The inauguration of Donald Trump attracted supporters,protesters and people who just wanted to witness history.
Security lines stretched for a few blocks, dotted with the red hats with the eponymous “Make America Great Again” slogan. Many in the crowd carried Trump flags and wore Trump scarves.
“We are really excited to be here,” said Lisa Wisent, 56, of Hickory, North Carolina.
She said her community is known for furniture and hosiery manufacturing, but NAFTA, has hurt them.
“When NAFTA was signed, my husband lost his job, “she said. “He was in hosiery and everything went to Mexico. We have a lot of family in furniture, and a lot other furniture (manufacturing) left. It went overseas.”
As the crowds walked onto the Washington Monument lawn, which served as one of the giant screen viewing areas, small groups of people began to chant “Trump, Trump, Trump!”
But protestors came to watch the swearing in of the controversial 45th president too.
Celeste Stone, 42, from Detroit, Michigan, came as a private citizen to exercise her right to protest.
“I feel that Trump is only going to further divide our country,” she said. “I don’t feel that the people that are disenfranchised, that have voted for Trump are actually going to get what they want. So, I am out here for everyone.”
Attendees laid out their raincoats and blankets to sit on the lawn. Some looked up at the screen as the names of key government officials were announced.
“I just want to witness the inauguration of a new president,” said Kevin McCallum, 30, from Bethesda, Maryland. “It is not political for me. I am looking for a peaceful transition of power. That’s what’s important to me no matter who won the election. No matter who I voted for, I would want to be out here today to see the new administration. The system is more important to me than any one man or woman who wins office.”
In spite of the rain, the crowd remained quiet and calm as Trump took the oath of office. They remained relatively silent throughout his inaugural speech, but gave a loud cheer when he said:
“The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.
That all changes — starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you.”
But as President Trump’s speech came to a close Sylvia Wilk, 19, from New York City’s Lower East Side, began to cry.
“I feel devastation and fear,” she said. “Fear for all the people that have lost so much protection and hope. I am thinking of my friends and everyone that is going to grow up seeing that face. It is heartbreaking.”
Attendance was overwhelmingly white, but there were a few people of color in the crowd who were Trump supporters.
“I am a Latino,” said Jorge Sosa, of Charlottesville, Virginia, and a native of Venezuela. I have made a good life for myself here. I consider myself a conservative because I believe in the government getting out of the way of the individual and allowing all people to succeed through their own efforts.”
As the crowd began to disperse students from Salinas Valley Dream Academy in California, who came to the nation’s capital as part of their class trip, made a unity circle and hugged one another.
“Right after the election, being a 100 Latino student group we were devastated, shocked, angry, and scared, but we decided to come,” said Ruben Pizarro, 40, the executive director of the academy. “We think this is the most important inauguration of their lifetime because it is really a call to action. There is a lot of work to be done.”
He looked over at a huddled group of students and said to them, “If you don’t like the way you feel right now, remember how you feel so that when you are tempted not to go to that city council meeting or not to vote you remember that this feeling isn’t worth it. You never want to be in this position again.”
In the basement of Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, women gathered recently to participate in the Muslim Community Network’s self defense class. Lately, it has been busier than usual.
“I believe that we got so many people interested and all of these RSVP’s because people were panicked after the election,” said Emaan Moosani, Program Director at the Muslim Community Network.
There has been an increase in hate crimes toward the Muslim community. The day after the presidential election, various attacks and hate oriented crimes were reported around the country.
“The need is really strong for us women to be able to defend ourselves, in light of all the Islamophobia and negative stuff that has been happening for the past almost two years,” said training participant, Ayesha Mohammed.
In a recent study, The Southern Poverty Center found that the number of groups on the American radical right has expanded from 784 in 2014 to 892 in 2015 — a 14% increase. This hostile climate has translated to an increase in attacks on vulnerable populations. The FBI hate crimes statistics show that assault, attacks on mosques and other hate crimes against Muslims surged by 67% since 2014. This increase is the biggest since 2001 when more than 480 attacks occurred in the aftermath of the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.
During the training, Magda Kamel, a teaching assistant, shared an experience she had following the elections.
“In the morning, on my way to the mosque somebody came and whispered bad words, f- words, and many things. At first, I ignored him, and he came closer… I was so scared of physical touch, but he came closer to curse me more,” Kamel recalled.
The fear in her community is overwhelming.
Mariana Aguilera served as a facilitator at the event. She emphasized that the training space was designed to help women cope not only with immediate danger but also with a state of being when facing a constant threat.
“ Self-defense is not just learning how to address something physically, but also how to address something mentally,” said Aguilera. “Self-defense has two parts, and those skills that you learn from there will give you the solution when you are confronting somebody verbally, physically, or what you are going to do when you are dealing with the situation itself.”
Participants stayed after the event to exchange contact information and provide words of support to the women that shared their experience during the training.
“I feel a whole lot more confident than when I walked in the room,” said Magda Kamel.
Antonio Tizapa, from Iguala, Guerrero chants “Vivos se los llevaron, Vivos los queremos!” at a protest aimed at Mexico’s president who was staying at the St. Regis Hotel. In his hand he holds a photo of his son, Jorge Antonio Tizapa Legideño, who is one of the 43 missing student teachers from Mexico’s Ayotzinapa’s Rural Teacher’s College . Photo by Cora Cervantes
Antonio Tizapa’s son, Jorge Antonio Tizapa Legideño, would be 22 this year. Jorge Antonio was one of the 43 student teachers from Mexico’s Ayotzinapa’s Rural Teacher’s College, that disappeared in September, two years ago.
With tears in his eyes, Tizapa said that his son is alive. He said that his reason for speaking up is his son, but his drive also comes from the indignation he feels toward larger issues of corruption and impunity that have distorted Mexico’s rule of law.
Yesterday evening, Tizapa, stood across the street from the St. Regis New York Hotel in Midtown, clutching in his hand a poster size picture of his missing son. He joined dozens of protesters with raised Mexican flags and fists in the air who began to chant in Spanish, “Vivos se los llevaron, Vivos los queremos!” (They were taken alive, we want them alive!).
The protesters gathered to express anger and frustration towards Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto’s New York visit and to remind the president of the 2nd anniversary of the mass disappearance of 43 students that took place in Iguala, Guerrero.
“We are asking for international support so that our children can be found and so that those that are responsible are held accountable,” he said. “We are not here because we want to be here. We are here because we are the product of a bad government.”
Outside of the hotel, parents, students, and activists expressed the frustration they felt about poor policy reforms and the alleged corruption within Peña Nieto’s administration. When the protesters were told that Peña Nieto was arriving, they loudly counted up to 43 in remembrance of the missing students.
The story of the 43 missing students received media attention last week, when Mexico’s Official Chief Investigator, Tomás Zerón, resigned amidst accusations of incompetence and a lack of transparency.
The crime statistics in Mexico are staggering. Reports say 151,233 people were killed between December 2006 and August 2015. At least a third of the murders are connected to organized crime. At least 26,000 people have gone missing and are believed to have been kidnapped since 2007 and thousands of women are sexually assaulted. There are very few convictions.
The disappearance and government’s reaction to ongoing protests has drawn criticism from the international community. In April of 2016, The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights strongly urged the Mexican government to take into consideration the recommendations made by the GIEI, an independent committee appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The GIEI’s report highlighted obstruction and inconsistencies in the Mexican government’s account of the disappearances. The report also made recommendations that included the need to strengthen the Attorney General’s office and the police department. The Mexican Government stated that they would comply with the GIEI’s recommendations, but no action has been taken.
Peña Nieto who was in attendance at the Foreign Policy Association 2016 World Leadership Forum Dinner to speak on U.S.-Mexico relations, was not available for comment. His office did not reach out to protesters, who had requested to meet with him.
The protesters drew a small crowd. Among them were tourists and immigrants from Mexico, who noticed the Mexican flags.
Not all agreed with the protestors.
“We try not to get involved with political matters,” said Diana Contreras, 25, who was visiting from Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico “There is a lot going on in Mexico, but there are different ways to respond.I don’t think these protesters represent the reality we live in Mexico.”
Oscar Gonzalez Castillo, 27, an immigrant from Puebla, Mexico, who has been living in New York City for eight years noticed the protest on his way home from work.
“I feel that it is fair that the protesters are here,” he said. “I feel bad. It is unjust for so many killings to go unanswered. I have family in Mexico. I feel helpless and sad… but I can stand here in support of the protesters,” he said.