In the emotional aftermath of President Trump’s divisive executive order to ban travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries on Friday, hundreds gathered on the lawn of the Monroe County Courthouse Sunday to support local immigrants and international students.
The order, which banned immigrants from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Lybia, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the United States for at least 90 days, has prompted protests across the country in airports and community centers.
Organized by Btown Justice, the rally saw protesters listening to speeches and chants.
“I always feel so guilty,” said IU sophomore Luma Khabbaz. “I did nothing to deserve this. Most of us are here because of pure luck.”
Khabbaz, public relations chair of the Muslim Student Association at IU, said she is a Syrian-American Muslim and most of her family still lives in Syria.
MSA will focus on inclusion, tolerance and change in the future, Khabbaz said. Then she called out President Trump directly.
“A letter to my president,” she said. “First, you will never be my president.”
The crowd roared as she paused for another moment. Then she called Trump a coward and continued.
“You don’t know what it’s like to know how to dodge bullets but not how to ride a bike,” she said.
After Khabbaz finished speaking, Gionni Ponce spoke on behalf of the Latino Graduate Student Association. Ponce said Trump was targeting those he thinks are weak.
“But as a group, we’re not weak,” she said. “With help, we are not weak.”
There were also speakers from the Black Graduate Student Association, the UndocuHoosier Alliance and the Maurer School of Law.
One speaker, Suzanne Kawamleh, is an IU student who is pursuing her Ph.D. in philosophy and is a Syrian-American. For most of her speech, which recounted her friends' and family's experiences as refugees, the audience was silent.
“You know those pictures you share on Facebook of children washing up on European shores?” She said. ”My family got in those boats.”
She told the members of the gathered crowd, who held various signs either accusing Trump of fascism or saying welcome to refugees, of the hell of the refugee camps she lived in with her family.
She told them of the immense difficulty and struggle her family and friends went through to be accepted into the U.S. She said once someone is accepted, after all that, they feel like they made it.
“You get so excited and land at the airport, and they hold you,” she said. ”That’s what happened yesterday.”
She was referencing the travelers from the banned countries who were detained at airports after the order was signed by Trump on Friday.
“A nun’s habit you wouldn’t have had a problem with,” she said. “But a normal headscarf? That won’t fly.”
She said this seems like a dictatorship.
Then she pulled her phone from her pocket and requested the protesters to call Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana. At the time of publication Young has remained silent on the issue. She gave them a message to give to the Republican senator:
“Senator Young, we don’t want a Muslim ban. They’re our people, too.”
Later in the night, many hours after the rally ended, several community members gathered in City Hall to discuss further action. They demanded Bloomington declare itself a sanctuary city and occupied the building in a sit-in.
Earlier during the march, the protesters’ sentiments were echoed on a banner signed by protestors in support of international students. The banner was covered in marker and snow.
“Glad you are here!”
“Everyone is an American!”
“Your fight is my fight”
The center of the banner read in large letters “We support you!”
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