A day after President Donald Trump signed an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria and temporarily barred immigration and entry from six other Muslim-majority nations, over 300 people gathered at the Denver International Airport Saturday night to stand in solidarity with those affected by Trump’s latest executive action and to welcome an American Muslim man arriving from Detroit.
Amal Kassir, a Muslim U.S. citizen from Denver, organized the movement, similar to the ones in New York and across the country, with a Facebook status asking people to join her in a surprise welcome of Omar Jawhar as he arrived at DIA from Detroit and to support those affected by Trump’s executive order. Jawhar is from Denver, and his family is from Lebanon.
“I am here to pick up my friend Omar, but in the meantime, I am here to remember the First Amendment right of the Constitution,” Kassir said while inside DIA’s arrivals terminal.
Joining Kassir in her welcoming of Jawhar were people from Denver, Boulder and unsuspecting arriving travelers.
As a refugee-oriented version of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” hung in the air of the terminal, Jenelle Martin stood holding a rose in the air to show her support of all immigrants and refugees coming to the U.S.
“We will be doing this as long as the White House is in its current administration,” Martin said.
Chants of “let them pray” broke out as the crowd spread to allow a group of Muslims to pray in the middle of the terminal. After their prayer, Denver police instructed Kassir to lead the group of protesters outside to the plaza by the Westin hotel.
Amber O’Neill, a 10-year employee of DIA’s Subway restaurant, gawked at the size of the exiting crowd from behind the cash register.
“I have never seen anything like this happen here before,” O’Neil said.
Protests are not common in airports; solicitations, leafleting or other “speech related activities” are not allowed without a permit.
Outside of the terminal, the crowd grew in size and strength as more people arrived by bus, car and plane. Standing above the crowd, Kassir continued to rally support for fellow Muslims and others affected by Trump’s presidency.
Members of the group shared the struggles they endured to come to America and how the president’s recent actions have impacted their families. A Cambodian Muslim spoke about fleeing the Khmer Rouge. An Afghan man said he cannot live under a “Putin presidency.” A tearful lawyer, whose parents came from Libya, told the crowd about the grandmother she doesn’t expect to see again while the ban is in place.
The crowd responded with a chant of the names of each country that immigration has been restricted from.
Kassir returned to the impromptu podium to share that a federal judge issued a stay allowing those who arrived with valid U.S. visas, but were detained due to Trump’s order, to remain in the U.S.
Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, the executive director of Colorado’s American Civil Liberties Union branch, joined in celebration as the crowd erupted in cheers.
“We will continue to fight legally, in the courts, through legislation and through the people,” Woodliff-Stanley said. “This is a scary time, and I am hopeful because I have never seen so many people waking to the need to protect our democracy.”
As the crowd waited for Jawhar, arriving passengers walked by with smiles, sneers and confusion. Several men who declined to comment showed displeasure with the crowd, while others joined in support.
“It is ’60s-esque — things are really sparking,” said a supportive airport worker who wished to be identified as Craig.
When the sliding glass doors opened to reveal an unsuspecting Jawhar, Kassir took to the megaphone to welcome her friend as he was swarmed by media and loving protesters.
Chants of “Omar for president” rang through the crowd and several people thanked the police for not arresting the protesters.
“It is surreal. I mean, I don’t know what is going on. I am just enthralled by what is happening right now and I just feel the love and energy,” Jawhar said after being greeted by the cheers of hundreds of strangers. “If we let the hate get to us, we’re all going to bring ourselves down.”
Contact CU Independent Multimedia Managing Editor Jackson Barnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.