Protesters rally against refugee ban at White House

US President Donald Trump. Photo / AP
US President Donald Trump. Photo / AP

Hundreds of demonstrators rallied outside the White House protesting against President Donald Trump's refugee ban, which stranded scores of travellers at US airports before being partially lifted by a federal judge.

Demonstrators lined Pennsylvania Avenue and packed Lafayette Square as the protest commenced. Revellers cycled through a variety of chants, and wielded poster boards bearing messages such as "Islamophobia is un-American" and "Dissent is patriotic".

"Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here! ... No hate! No fear! Refugees are welcome here!" they chanted.

"No justice! No peace! No justice! No peace!"

The White House protest was one of several nationwide, including Boston, and at more than 30 US airports. There also were plans for demonstrations in the United Kingdom.

The travel ban bars entry into the United States from seven predominately Muslim countries. Despite a federal judge's ruling on Sunday, and similar court decisions with varying degrees of power, the Department of Homeland Security issued a statement today that said the agency would continue to implement the travel rule.

At Dulles International Airport, hundreds of peaceful demonstrators sang the "National Anthem" and created a cheering gauntlet for travellers emerging from customs.

The crowd yelled "Let them in!" and "Welcome!" as passengers, including some from majority-Muslim countries, rolled their suitcases through gray doors and into an airport that had become a makeshift law office and civics classroom in response to Trump's executive order.

"My kids go to school with people from everywhere," said Sasha Moreno, of Reston, Virginia, whose 6-year-old daughter drew a little red statue of liberty on poster board along with the message: "Welcome to America".

Her daughter's kindergarten class includes many students from Sudan, one of the countries targeted by Trump's order, which has brought a sense of anxiety in her own family. The idea that her daughter's friends' grandparents would be barred from visiting the US just because of who they are is unacceptable, and she wants her children to know that's not what America stands for, Moreno said.

"There are lots of Muslim students at her school. Hearing this stuff going on is really confusing" to them, Moreno said. "We like the idea of them having friends from everywhere."

At the White House, the crowds were swelling through early Afternoon. Photos from social media showed packed Metro trains bound for the downtown core.

The tone vacillated between forceful and unifying, as protesters alternately chanted "SHAME" and partook in renditions of "America the Beautiful" and "This Land is Your Land."

George Formukong, a police officer in the District, came to the rally with his family still wearing their dress clothes from church.

They flew back from their native Cameroon on Sunday to learn that other travellers were being denied.

"Because our country was not on the list we were able to travel," Formukong said

"Everyone is an immigrant here. We should have equal treatment."

For many, the demonstrations were personal.


Amira Hassan, 26, remembered the excitement she felt when she flew into John F. Kennedy International Airport with her family as a refugee from Somalia in 2001.

Hassan is graduate student in public administration at American University and a naturalised citizen. Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, she said she has watched the rise of Islamophobia as her family built a life in the US.

"It's hard not to feel terrified and angry and sad and heartbroken," she said.

Georgia Warner brought her nearly 3-month-old son to Dulles, with a sign that said "Raising my son to tear down your wall #NoBanNoWall."

He was born on Election Day.

Warner is an American history teacher in Washington, about to end her maternity leave.


"There might not be a better time in my lifetime to teach the US Constitution and US history," Warner said. Her message to visitors from around the world: "There are still people who will stand by them and defend their rights."'

Her husband, Chris Miller, said America's "capacity for inclusiveness" deserves to be protected.

"It's my job as a patriotic American to stand up for American values," Miller said, as he fed and burped his infant son.

The family also was headed to protest at the White House.

"My oath didn't end when my enlistment did," said Lee Carter, another demonstrator who served in the Marines and is running for state office in Virginia. He carried an oversized florescent green declaration: "I, Lee Carter, do solemnly affirm that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign AND DOMESTIC #nevertrump #resist".

- Washington Post

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