A version of this article was published by News2Share on February 5, 2017.
“Islam is not our enemy. Islam has never been our enemy.”
Thousands are huddled together on a cold Saturday morning in downtown Washington just steps from the White House grounds. Nearby, construction crews are busy at work dismantling the looming wooden structure that weeks ago served as President Trump’s inaugural parade stand.
“I’ve been in refugee camps with Syrian families,” continues Bella, an 18-year old aid worker through a loudspeaker aimed toward the White House. “Did you know that one of the five pillars of that religion is charity for the poor,” she asks the president. “This is a country that was built upon people seeking refuge from religious persecution. Why is today any different?”
It’s day 15 of the Trump presidency, and a cohort of young activists and concerned citizens are already calling for the newly-elected Trump to be reprimanded or impeached. But the latest calls for action are not from those who are already here, but for those who want to be - or, in some cases, desperately need to be.
“You’ve blocked immigrants from trying to enter the country. A lot of them are trying to escape their country. By not letting them take refuge here, you are letting them get killed."
That was Maddie. She’s 11, and she had just a few words for Trump on his orders barring immigration from several Muslim-majority countries, throwing asylum-seekers - many fleeing life-threatening situations in their homelands - straight into political turmoil.
What began last week as a rapid response at thousands at airports across the country has kept up momentum by pressuring elected officials through mass phone calls and consistent protest on the streets. Today’s action in downtown Washington was one of the biggest in the city since that order went out, this time organized by volunteer group Peace for Iran. It’s a sure sign that opposition to the new rule shows little sign of abating anytime soon.
Thousands set out down the entire length of Pennsylvania Avenue, bringing with them chants including “You build a wall, we tear it down,” and “Donald, can’t you see? You’re not welcome in DC.” A sea of protest signs blanketed blocks of Pennsylvania and Constitution all the way to the east side of the Capitol, with many marchers wearing the pink hats that became an icon of the record-setting Women’s March last month.
Along the way, they shared hopes for peace and unity bundled with a warning that the recent political upheaval seemed eerily familiar.
“I’m out here today to show my respect for the community and show how we can all defend our religion and our rights,” said a young Muslim girl marching together with her family. “Every religion is welcome in every part of the world, and everybody is human no matter what their religion or race.”
“I study a lot of World War II history, and it’s so reminiscent of the way that Hitler rose to power,” said Samantha Behlog, one of several protesters hoisting up a long banner at the front of the march reading No Ban, No Wall. “The way that he’s just gone drumming up fear - making it so being prejudiced and racist is more accepted, it ends up going down a really, really dark road that we’ve seen before.”