Tens of thousands in U.S. cities protest Trump immigration policies

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 29, 2017 5:15 PM

By Frank McGurty and Nathan Frandino

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of people rallied in U.S. cities and at airports on Sunday to voice outrage over President Donald Trump's executive order restricting entry into the country for travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations.

In New York, Washington and Boston, a second wave of demonstrations began the afternoon after spontaneous rallies broke out at U.S. airports on Saturday as U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents began enforcing Trump's directive. The protests on Sunday were expected to spread westward as the day progressed.

The president's order, which bars admission of Syrian refugees and suspends travel to the United States from Iraq, Iran, Sudan and four other countries on national security grounds, has led to the detention or deportation of hundreds of people arriving at U.S. airports.

One of the largest of Sunday's protests took place at Battery Park in lower Manhattan, within sight of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, long a symbol of welcome to U.S. shores.

Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York told the crowd that the Trump order was un-American and ran counter to the country's core values.

"What we are talking about here is life and death for so many people," Schumer said. "I will not rest until these horrible orders are repealed."

The march, estimated to have grown to about 10,000 people, later began heading to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office in lower Manhattan.

In Washington, thousands rallied at Lafayette Square across from the White House, chanting: "No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here."

It was the second straight weekend that Washington was the scene of protests. Last Saturday, hundreds of thousands of women participated in an anti-Trump rally and march, one of dozens staged across the country.

On Sunday, many of the protesters left the White House area and marched along Pennsylvania Avenue, stopping at the Trump International Hotel where they shouted: "Shame, shame, shame."

A crowd estimated by police at 8,000 eventually arrived at the steps of the U.S. Capitol, where a line of uniformed officers stood guard.

As the crowd passed the Canadian Embassy en route to the Capitol, protesters chanted: "Hey hey, ho ho, I wish our leader was Trudeau." It was a reference to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Twitter message on Saturday reaffirming his country's welcoming policy toward refugees.

Trump defended the executive order in a statement on Sunday, saying the United States would resume issuing visas to all countries once secure policies were put in place over the next 90 days.

"To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting," Trump said. "This is not about religion - this is about terror and keeping our country safe."

'NEVER AGAIN MEANS NEVER'

Aria Grabowski, 30, of Washington, was carrying a sign that read: “Never again means never again for everyone.”

Above the slogan was a photograph of Jewish refugees who fled Germany in 1939 on a ship, the St. Louis, that was turned away from Havana, Cuba, and forced to return to Europe. More than 250 people aboard the ship were eventually killed by the Nazis.

Rhonda Reese, 56, a Muslim from northern Virginia, said: "As a Muslim, I do appreciate the support that I see. Our community feels under siege right now."

About 200 protesters chanted on Sunday afternoon at Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia near Washington, where a much larger crowd staged a noisy demonstration on Saturday evening.

About the same number gathered at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, where anxious families awaited relatives detained for hours after flights from countries affected by the presidential order.

Organizers estimated that more than 10,000 people gathered at Boston's Copley Square to hear speakers including Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a vocal critic of Trump and a leader of the Democratic Party's liberal wing.

During the protests, dozens of Muslims, some of them kneeling on protest signs, bowed in prayer on rugs laid out grassy patch of ground in the square.

In Houston, already filling up with visitors for next Sunday's Super Bowl, about 500 people marched through the downtown.

Jennifer Fagen, 47, a professor of sociology at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, said she hoped she did not lose her job for protesting.

"I'm Jewish and it's supposed to be never again. Jews should be the first ones to defend Muslims considering what has happened to us and it seems it's being repeated under Trump," Fagen said, referring to the Holocaust.

(Additional reporting by Susan Corwall, Ian Simpson and Lesley Wroughton in Washington, Brian Snyder in Boston, Ruthy Munoz in Houstona and Chris Francescani in New York; Editing by Peter Cooney)