Thousands chant “No ban, No wall” at airports this weekend

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Thousands chant “No ban, No wall” at airports this weekend

Bella Levavi

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Since the recent Presidential election, protesters have repeatedly taken to the streets. The protests this past weekend took a slightly different turn as thousands across the country flooded international airports to protest the chaos caused by the unilateral Presidential action of banning refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

This executive order outraged many, so starting on Saturday at JFK airport, protesters shut down airports across the country. In Chicago on Saturday night, the road to get into the International Terminal at O’Hare was blocked by people practicing civil disobedience.

This protest was unlike many recent protests in another way: the passion of the leaders of the Arab American Action Network was palpable. Each chant was so enthusiastic that mosh pits formed in the middle of the street. Even when police officers threatened to arrest the protesters for being inside the airport on Sunday night the enthusiasm was not dampened. Marchers continued demonstrating outside the door of the terminal. Police confiscated the sound system of one group of protesters, and in response, the crowds of people increased the volume of their voices. The police confined the protesters within a cage of fences, but this did not constrict them either. They marched back and forth within the small fenced in areas and let the police know that they were still determined to march.

Some opposed the protests, feeling that shutting down international airports is not a constructive way to convey a message to the President and that working with legal defense organizations and letter writing would have been more productive.  Marcus Williams, junior, said, “I think that disrupting international airports only fuels the negative view conservatives have about protesters. I also feel that it is not effective politically. While everyone should have the right to protest, I believe that the airport protests may have gone a bit overboard considering that there has been an influx of immigration and our systems to ensure American safety is at best faulty.”

This executive order was particularly poignant to Jews across the country who saw in this ban echoes of the Holocaust. The survivors’ admonition to “Never Forget” has sparked a spirit among Jews to combat situations in the world which could lead to another genocide. The Chicagoland Jewish community attributes nefarious intent to the executive order barring refugees. In every direction in the protest, there were signs saying, “Jews in support of Immigrants” and “Never Again.”  Particularly striking was the fact that the Jewish community came out to support Muslims denied entrance into the United States, despite the Jewish and Muslim communities often finding themselves at odds over Middle East issues.

The President of the Niles North Hebrew Honor Society, Spencer Schwartz, senior, commented, “During the Holocaust, many Jewish refugees were denied entry into the United States, mostly out of irrational fears that they were Nazi spies or some other anti-Semitic reasoning. These claims were false and the denial of entry to the US cost many Jewish refugees their lives. Today, the parallel is obvious. People are, once again, being persecuted because of their religion and are, once again, being denied access to America.”

Along with the Jewish community, Black Lives Matter Chicago also came out to support the cause. The protesters took up Black Lives Matter chants demonstrating that an inter-sectional movement has been created since Trump was elected. People from all different groups are coming together to defend each other.

The mass protests show that Americans are willing to stand up for the rights of others to enter this country and to protect the safety of those coming from war torn countries. This ban will expire in 120 days, and the future for endangered refugees is uncertain.

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