Protesters Fill San Francisco Airport Demanding Trump Immediately End Travel Ban From 7 Muslim Countries
For the second day in a row, hundreds of protesters filled the international terminal at San Francisco airport holding posters, chanting and passionately demanding an immediate end to Donald Trump’s ban on visitors from seven Muslim countries that was imposed on Friday via presidential decree.
"No ban. No wall. Sanctuary for all," was one of the chants that resounded through the terminal as people of all ages, skin colors and nationalities held scores of signs demanding the federal government embrace immigrants and legal visitors and stop a blanket demonization of Islamic counties and culture.
In the backdrop were dozens of lawyers, many who said they work in Silicon Valley, who said they were trying to find a refugee or name of someone denied entry to file a lawsuit in the federal circuit serving California. While other federal court jurisdictions around the country have issued emergency orders saying that Trump’s executive orders were unconstitutional, the California circuit has not—creating confusion here as to whether immigration officials can stop travelers.
In the middle of the crowd stood Moustafa Elattar, a plumber, from Egypt, who has been here for 16 years, and held a sign, “Yes, I am a Muslim. No, I’m not a terrorist.” He said that he believed it was possible to stand up for what was right and that the protests were stopping Trump’s orders from being carried out.
"We all have power to do something. It’s not fair to treat people different because we believe differently. I am a Muslim. I am not a terrorist,” he said.
Elattar said that whatever was happening with the detainees was not being told to the protesters. Immigration police have not said anything about what they were doing, he said, although he said he was present when one man who had been held was released and addressed the protesters.
“They held him for a few hours,” he said. “I heard him. He was crying when he came out.”
Elattar, a middle-aged man in a grey sweater, blue button-down shirt and wire-farm glasses, looked at the crowd and shook his head.
”I never believed it would happen in the USA,” he said. “When we came here, we came for the land of freedom. That's why we came. We raised our children here."
Standing next to him was Waheed Asdi, who came from Yemen 25 years ago—one of the counties that Trump banned refugees and travelers from. He owns an auto repair shop in Berkeley and said what was happening was un-American.
"We all came to this country to seek the freedom,” he said. “We came to see a better life. We came because in our country, a war never stopped. We saw safety and the law [here]. We love it. But now when we see and follow the news they are breaking the Constitution, which this country is based on. And that is why we came. We are surprised. We are confused. We can't believe what is going on."
Another Yemeni in a suit who only would give his first name, Abdul, said that there are over 600 small business owners from Yemen in the East Bay. Like him, they pay taxes, employ people, are part of the economy and the country, he said.
"I feel shame to witness this at home. I feel shame as an American Muslim (and want) to see Americans defending democracy in this country,” he said. "The visa is a right of entry. For someone to come and [authorities] say they cannot come anymore is morally wrong. At least respect that people have green cards, visas, and do the right thing. They waited years to come and now this?"
Abdul, who owns a produce store in a Latino community, said that he was also concerned about the impact on that community which is also being targeted by Trump’s executive orders—where millions without visas may face deportation.
"The Latino people who have been here with their families and have contributed to this country and so many ways,” he said. “I don't know anyone in their community who has done anything wrong. The U.S. government has the best intelligence agencies in the world. Let them find bad people. Don’t disparage a whole nation. Don’t disparage a whole religion—a whole community. It goes against the American values we respect.”
Abdul said that he didn’t vote for Trump, but when he was elected he wanted to give him a chance to steer away from the campaign rhetoric and start to govern.
“I thought, because of the campaign, this is how politics is—this is not going to happen,” he said. “He said he wants to be a president for all Americans. He’s proved me wrong with all these actions… For a president to succeed, you have to unite people. Trump has divided every aspect of this country.”
As this report was being filed, a line of two dozen California State Highway Patrol officers and local sheriffs marched through the crowd at the ground floor of the international arrival building to the second floor where protesters also were. They were soon followed by dozens of protesters filming their every move. Meanwhile, downstairs, the protests by hundreds of others continued as the sun set outside and there was talk of continuing with a sit-in.