By Michela Martinazzi
New York, NY – On Jan. 28, the day after President Trump signed the executive order to restrict Muslims from seven countries from entering the U.S., reports came from the John F. Kennedy International airport saying that 12 people, including an Iranian Ph.D. student and two Iraqi refugees, were being detained under Trump’s new rule.
Protesters began calling for action early that morning and a Facebook event went up calling for an event from noon until 6 p.m. at JFK Terminal 4. By 3 p.m. several hundred had already gathered at Terminal 4, with streams of protesters pouring in through the Airtrain every 15 to 20 minutes. By 5 p.m. the numbers had swelled to over 700 protesters in the sidewalks and parking garage opposite the Terminal 4 entrance. Police began corralling protesters behind barricades and tried to jostle new protesters in an attempt to keep them from joining in. The crowd kept swelling so that every single floor of the adjacent parking garage was crowded with protesters holding signs such as “Refugees are welcome here,” or “First they came for the Muslims, and I said not this time, motherfucker!”
When the crowds reached into the thousands, the NYPD barricades could no longer hold the protesters in and they took over the streets, blocking any car from leaving Terminal 4. Chants, such as “Let them in!” and “This shit is Illegal! I.L.L.E.G.A.L!” rang throughout the crowd and the few drivers that remained in their cars honked and cheered with the chanters.
At 6 p.m. the New York Taxi Workers Alliance tweeted that they would hold a one-hour work stoppage from 6 until 7 p.m. to protest the #MuslimBan ordered by President Trump. Many taxi drivers came and joined the huge crowd in Terminal 4 and stood in solidarity against Trump’s agenda. On the other hand, the private ride-sharing company, Uber broke picket lines by dropping prices to and from JFK airport to accommodate the demand for riders.
At the same time, there were reports that protesters were being stopped from getting onto the Airtrain. Sara Flounders, an organizer with the International Action Center, was one of the protesters blocked and she said, “When we switched from the subway to the AirTrain to get out to JFK airport police formed a line to try to stop us. Only people with airline tickets would be permitted through the turnstiles. Our chants of ‘When Muslim lives are under attack, what do we do? Stand up! Fight back!’ was picked up by hundreds of people who were stopped. They finally backed down as we all chanted non-stop, ‘Shut it down! Shut it down!’”
Flounders continued, “This is when we suddenly realized that we would not just be a few hundred people at the airport. Many thousands were on their way and were refusing to be stopped. With chants, cheers and raw determination they just swept past the police.”
At 7:30 p.m., lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) began calling for protesters who couldn’t get to Terminal 4 to go to Cadman’s Plaza, in Brooklyn, to demand that a federal judge grant a stay to the detainees being held in JFK. The lawsuit was being brought forth by ACLU lawyers and two of the detainees being held at the airport. A large crowd gathered outside of Cadman’s Plaza and rallied and chanted as more and more people gathered.
John Fletcher, an organizer with the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoners Solidarity Network, was there and said, “A crowd of mostly young middle-class youth chanted in support of open immigration and an immediate end to Trumps’s right-wing recklessness towards immigrants and people of color. Noticeably absent was more radical voices and organizations. Many of the protesters embraced patriotism with a liberal face. Signs like ‘dissent is patriotic’ [were present] and protesters [were] singing Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land.
At 8:45 p.m. ACLU lawyers were announcing that the federal judge granted an emergency stay for all the detainees who were held, and would halt President’s Trump executive order on a national level, meaning all those detained will be released from airport security.
In New York, the momentum continues, with a protest and march to End the Muslim Ban happening later on Sunday afternoon, Jan. 29.