Government

More than 100 protesters turn out at Eastern Iowa Airport in support of refugees

'Stop the hate' among their chants

More than 100 people gathered outside The Eastern Iowa Airport Sunday afternoon, Jan. 29, 2017 to protest President Donald Trump's executive order that bars refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days and citizens of seven mostly-Muslim countries from entering for 90 days. (Chelsea Keenan/The Gazette)
More than 100 people gathered outside The Eastern Iowa Airport Sunday afternoon, Jan. 29, 2017 to protest President Donald Trump's executive order that bars refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days and citizens of seven mostly-Muslim countries from entering for 90 days. (Chelsea Keenan/The Gazette)
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The chant “No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here” rang out in the crisp January air Sunday afternoon as more than 100 people gathered outside The Eastern Iowa Airport to do one of the only things they could think of after President Donald Trump announced an executive order barring refugees from entering the United States for 120 days and immigrants from seven mostly Muslim countries for 90 days.

They protested.

Wrapped in coats and scarves, they held handmade signs that read “Refugees Welcome,” “We are all Immigrants” and “Stop the Hate” for several hours. They chanted and cheered when passing cars honked in support.

The president’s executive announcement — which includes Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Iraq — sparked protests at airports in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., and other cities.

It also roused Wendy and Jeffery O’Brien of Cedar Rapids to act.

“I’ve lived in the Middle East,” Jeffery said. “This executive order is flat out wrong and unnecessary.”

For Wendy — who had never participated in a political protest until Sunday — the ban of Muslim immigrants and refugees was the final straw, capping off what she believes are inappropriate cabinet appointees and other frustrations.

“I wanted to share my voice,” she said, adding she plans also to write to her representatives.

What the couple really wants to see is Republican representatives stand up to Trump.

“I’m a Republican,” Wendy said. “But I feel like the Republican leadership can’t show real leadership. I might not chose to remain in the party if that’s the case.”

Coe College students Leah Brownlee and Kierra Young were with classmates and one of their professors. Before Trump’s presidency, neither had been particularly involved or active in politics, they said, but that is changing.

Brownlee said she has been surprised at the pace at which Trump has signed executive orders and put changes in motion since his Jan. 20 inauguration.

“I want to take a stand,” she said. “It feels like a no-brainer.”

That was a sentiment shared by many protesters at the Cedar Rapids airport Sunday.

“It is the only morally right thing to do,” Iris DeMent of Iowa City said.

She was at the airport with Mazahir Salih, a Sudanese immigrant.

Salih, who is Muslim, said she couldn’t find the words to describe how the ban made her feel.

“I’ve been here a long time,” she said. “I have learned that America appreciates everyone ... . Now it appears this year that the country is going backward and not forward.”

She worries about the future and her family.

“But I still have hope,” Salih said. “I see what people are willing to do to help us.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8331; chelsea.keenan@thegazette.com

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