On Friday, January 27th, 2017 President Donald Trump used executive order for an immigration ban that severely blocks and restricts immigration from seven Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. This executive order known as, "Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorists Entry into the United States" blocks citizens from the seven Muslim majority countries from entering the United States for 90 days, suspends refugee admissions or 120 days and indefinitely bars all Syrian refugees. Following this action protests against this ban sprung up across the country.
In Seattle, a protest was quickly organized at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Saturday after the executive order had been signed and people in airports across the country were being detained. The Seattle Times reports that four people were ordered back to their country of departure while two others were detained. Although, I was personally unable to attend the airport protest I suggest looking at photos and reporting by Seattle photojournalist, Alex Garland, who covered the protest for an article in the Seattle Weekly. Garland reports by midnight the Port of Seattle police released pepper spray into the crowd.
On Sunday, January 29th, 2017 an emergency no ban rally and march was organized in downtown Seattle in a continued protest. Westlake Park was already packed full of people by the start time of 5:00pm PST and people were continuing to show up and spill out into the street and walkways. While political figures and designated speakers spoke on stage to the crowd at Westlake, I decided to talk with those around me about why they were here.
One woman stood on the corner holding a single yellow rose as a symbol of friendship. Two Somali women, who are now American citizens, told me they still have family from Somalia and that they want them to be able to leave the refugee camps and come to America. They expressed that they are American citizens, they have their rights and that they are going to fight back.
Samiyah, 12 years old, and her farther, Ali, came out because she was unable to attend the women's march and wanted to show their support to the refugees and immigrants.
Edith Sable, expressed that she doesn't agree at all with the actions of Donald Trump. Her son, who sits on top of her shoulders, holding a sign that says "cute immigrant" is himself an immigrant. She goes on to explain that her parents were refugees in 1956 and escaped Hungary when the Russians invaded, her father-in-law was a second generation Japanese American who was interned. Sable's uncle was also a refugee from Hungary and had joined the US Army and fought in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars and her brother-in-law is part Native American. She states her family represents America, "a land of immigrants, refugees, however people come."
Christina Shimizu, a Japanese American, expressed how important it was for her to be out protesting. She said,
"this reminds me a lot of an experience my family went through when they were interned during World War II. I had always wondered what the climate in America was like that allowed for families to be taken from their homes. What their neighbors did when they watched that happen and how they went on with their daily lives? For me to know that people are being detained in SeaTac right now, held against their will, having their freedoms stripped from them and keeping them from being able to see their families is not okay."
Shimizu continued to express that she could not just go about her daily life and look the other way. She emphasized that we cannot let this happen in our country again and that never again is happening now. Shimizu stated that, "as a Japanese American I will not sit by, I will use my body to protest."
These are just a few stories that had been shared throughout the night. I also spoke with a young woman who happened to be traveling from South Korea and had asked me what was going on. She was intrigued and mentioned how impressed she was to witness this type of free speech, that you do not see this in her country. She joined me for a while as I moved my way through the crowd and I thought what an interesting time it is for someone to be traveling across the United States.
Eventually, the crowd began to get restless and started marching. We marched through downtown, up to Capitol Hill chanting, "No ban, no wall" and "No Hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here." At one point a few people marching near me started singing "This Land is Your Land, this Land is My Land." However, this land is not our land and it never was. The United States of America was built on stolen land from the native people, colonized and built by slave labor. The very land we were marching on was taken from the Duwamish tribe and yet people still sing this song, while our Indigenous peoples are fighting for the rights to their land and are met with militarized police. We must remember that this land was never ours and was taken by force.
The larger march had ended once we reached Cal Anderson Park in Capitol Hill but marches were continuing downtown. My friend Poppy and I ran to meet up with one of the side marches. We continued to march across downtown Seattle and were followed by a string of cops to "protect" us if things became "unpeaceful." We ended this march at the Federal Building were we gathered around four empowered women of color activists. They reminded and urged us to check our privilege, to get involved in community organizing and that for people of color this political climate is nothing new. It was a reminder for myself to be aware of my whiteness and to use the privilege I have to support those in their continued struggle. This fight is far from over but it gives me hope to see more people waking up and getting involved.