Protests flood airports
In defense of Muslims, refugees
Outrage was swift after President Donald Trump signed an executive order Jan. 27 immediately banning people from seven primarily Muslim countries, all of them victims of U.S. wars and interventions, from entering the United States.
Demonstrations against the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim ban began growing as people descended upon airports across the country. The protests helped propel federal judges to issue temporary rulings stopping provisions of the order.
Here are descriptions of some protests that Workers World Party activists participated in.
Over 1,000 people in Houston demonstrated inside the international terminal at George Bush Intercontinental Airport Jan. 28. Two dozen attorneys began working to free those who had been detained. On Jan. 29, around 2,000 people gathered at the international arrivals terminal. An outdoor demonstration was also held after police and fire officials stopped more people from entering the terminal.
Earlier that day, 1,500 people gathered outside the George Brown Convention Center where “The NFL Experience” was promoting the Super Bowl, to be held in Houston on Feb. 5. Good media coverage was given to all the protests. They included activists from many different organizations, including Workers World Party, but most were unaffiliated individuals and families who decided to take a public stand.
At New York’s JFK airport, the entire International Arrivals Terminal was overwhelmed by thousands of demonstrators on Jan. 28. They lined the railings of the parking garages and blocked traffic on the roads. Even while chanting, everyone was on their phones — texting, tweeting, networking, connecting to friends to hurry to the airport to challenge Trump’s anti-Muslim travel ban. Information swept through the crowds and was transmitted over social media. Airport workers waved and cheered. It was learned that the N.Y. Taxi Drivers Alliance, many of whose members are immigrants, had called a work stoppage on trips to and from the airport in solidarity with the actions and against the ban. (For more on the New York protest, see “Airport shutdowns confirm: People Power will bring Trump down!” at workers.org.)
After hundreds turned out at Philadelphia International Airport on Jan. 28, thousands then marched at the airport the next day, blocking the main arrivals road for hours. The crowds were diverse, including entire families. Participants ranged from long-time activists in the labor, civil rights, religious and revolutionary movements to new demonstrators getting
their feet wet for the first time.
Hundreds in downtown Baltimore took part in a march Jan. 28 initiated by several local university student activists, as well as the People’s Power Assembly and WWP. The diverse crowd defiantly marched in the streets in solidarity with all immigrants facing government repression. They went to several landmarks, including an Army Corps of Engineers office in solidarity with Standing Rock; Lexington Market, a Black community landmark slated for gentrification; Planned Parenthood, whose funding is under attack; and the immigration offices at the federal building.
The next day, thousands gathered at Baltimore-Washington International Airport to protest Trump’s anti-Muslim ban on people entering the U.S.
‘Let them in!’
Hundreds of demonstrators met Jan. 29 in front of the Hamtramck, Mich., City Hall and police headquarters in solidarity with Muslims and undocumented immigrants. Hamtramck, a small, multinational city located inside the city of Detroit, is home to many people from countries on Trump’s ban list.
Later, thousands gathered at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Called by the Women’s March in Michigan and the Michigan Muslim Community Council, the Jan. 29 demonstration was endorsed by more than 20 local organizations, including the recently formed Michigan Peoples’ Defense Network.
The line of cars to enter the airport was backed up for miles. Travel was no doubt disrupted for some airport patrons. Protesters first organized themselves outside the terminal chanting, “Let them in!” and “Refugees are welcome here!” As the crowd grew to thousands, they flooded the inside of the terminal.
Around 6:30 p.m., airport police and some protesters started encouraging the crowd to leave. Anarchists along with protesters from Workers World Party remained militant, chanting slogans like “From Palestine to Mexico, border walls have got to go!”
A large crowd, including many new activists, gathered inside the terminal at Buffalo Niagara [N.Y.] International Airport the evening of Jan. 28 to protest Trump’s order. A sense of great urgency and inspiration from other demonstrations at airports all over the country brought people out to protest despite a heavy snow.
‘Refugees are welcome here!’
In Syracuse, N.Y., 600-plus people occupied the lower level of Terminal B at Hancock International Airport for three hours the night of Jan. 29. The outraged protesters waved homemade signs and chanted nonstop slogans like “No wall, no registry, down with white supremacy!” Speaking at the protest, called by the Central New York Solidarity Coalition, were undocumented Latinx workers assisted by the Workers’ Center of Central New York and representatives from Black Lives Matter, the Syracuse Peace Council and local Muslim and refugee communities. Syracuse has been a sanctuary city since the abolitionist movement against U.S. slavery, a position strongly reaffirmed by Mayor Stephanie Miner.
Thousands packed the International Terminal at San Francisco International Airport Jan. 28 and 29, demanding the release of those being held illegally. Chanting, “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here!” and “No ban, no wall, sanctuary for all!” they shut down the arrivals area and both departure gates. Lara Kiswani, of the Arab Resource Organizing Committee, announced that all five known detainees had been released.
In Portland, Ore., hundreds gathered Jan. 28 at the International Airport for a “No Ban, No Wall” protest that had been scheduled in 2016. The evening before the demonstration, Trump signed his executive order. The demonstration halted mass transit to and from the airport. The following afternoon, airport management closed upper-level roadways and informed travelers to expect delays. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler joined the protests on both days.
Thousands of people protested at Seattle-Tacoma Airport Jan. 28. Many solidarity activists carried signs reading, “No Ban, No Wall!” After many hours, 30 people were arrested and protesters were pepper sprayed.
Immigrant rights lawyers, using the services of a U.S. District judge, were able to gain the release of two people who had been detained. The next day a huge rally drew at least 7,000 people. This action spilled over into the streets, completely tying up traffic. There were also demonstrations at the U.S./Canadian border and at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, where over 1,600 immigrants are held, including recent arrivals from Haiti.
Contributors include Jasen Vyvyan Balmat, David Card, Sage Collins, Ellie Dorritie, Sara Flounders, Mond Jones, Terri Kay, Jim McMahan, Randi Nord, Joe Piette, Minnie Bruce Pratt and Gloria Rubac.