While not all of the estimated 1,200 people who turned out in Newark Avenue’s pedestrian plaza on Jan. 29 came to protest Donald Trump’s travel ban, those who supported his initiatives kept to themselves as more vocal critics took the center stage.
Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 28 that suddenly limited or halted travel into the United States from seven countries deemed to impose a possible risk of terrorist activity. The countries included Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia.
One Jersey City man, who declined to give his name, said he saw no reason for the protest.
“This is a temporary ban, based on a list of countries that was made under President Obama,” he said. “There are people out there who would love to kill us. We just want to make sure they don’t get into our country.”
His, however, was not the prevailing opinion. People started arriving more than two hours before the scheduled start of the rally to oppose the ban, in twos and threes, carrying pre-printed posters or homemade protest signs, some even using the pedestrian plaza’s tables to write their angry messages to President Trump.
Imtiaz Syed, one of the co-sponsors of the rally, called Trump’s ban “un-American” and compared his actions to similar activities conducted by the Nazis in the 1930s.
Syed said the concept behind the ban is wrong as well, the belief that the United States can return to the isolationism of the 19th century.
“We live in a global society,” he said, calling the ban an attack on Muslims. “The president doesn’t seem to believe Muslims belong in America. He doesn’t know that Muslims helped discover America. While Columbus was the captain of one of three ships, the captains of the other two were Muslim.”
With his amplified voice bounding off the brick facing of Newark Avenue buildings, fellow organizer Michael Billy revved up the crowd saying, “Tonight we lock arms and we lock arms together. Our neighbors’ cause is our cause.”
“We are going to resist this every step of the way.” – Mayor Steven Fulop
Muslim and Arab community advocate Ahmed Shedeed said, “This is a shame. This is a different America than we know. And hopefully we can get back to the America we had before.”
Fulop issues executive order
Surging against the barriers that isolated the temporary stage, protestors waved signs that said, “We are all children of immigrants;” “We are all Muslims;” “Proud daughter of a refugee;” “No ban, no wall, sanctuary for all,” and less flattering sayings.
Mayor Steven Fulop said “We are going to resist this every step of the way,” and announced that the City Council would introduce an ordinance that would establish Jersey City as a full sanctuary city.
Making good on his promise, Fulop issued an executive order on Friday, Feb. 3 that officially made Jersey City a sanctuary city, ordering city employees not to cooperate with certain aspects of federal authorities unless specifically directed by court order. The executive order codified the informal position the city had previously taken in a 1996 ordinance.
Although there is no distinct legal status signifying a sanctuary city, states or cities that adopt an ordinance that sets limits on their involvement in enforcing immigration law or their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement agencies are generally recognized as sanctuary cities. There are 35 cities nationwide that have strict non-cooperation regulations.
Jersey City would join them if the council votes to adopt the ordinance next month.
The executive order signed by President Trump on Jan. 26 restricted refugee admissions, causing some refugees to be detained at various airports. The order suspends all refugee admission for 120 days, and Syrian refugees indefinitely. It also suspends entry of immigrants and visa holders from seven majority-Muslim countries for at least 90 days.
Among those who spoke at the rally included Latino Justice President Juan Cartagena, who urged the crowd to resist.
Megan Johnson, director of the Jersey City office of Church World Service, said Jersey City had accepted 170 refugees over the last year, and was scheduled to bring in more this week, but these were detained at the airport.
Mike McLean of Jersey City Vigil for Refugees said orders like Trump’s should make everybody sign up. “Because we are all refugees.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.