About 175 people demonstrated in Chapel Hill on Sunday against President Donald Trump’s executive order barring citizens from seven mostly Muslim countries from entering the United States.
Speakers gathered on Peace and Justice Plaza at noon, holding signs that said “#No Ban No Wall” “(Heart) Your Neighbor” and “Trump You Don’t Speak for Me.”
“We will stand up to bigotry,” said Karen Porter, of the group Indivisible Chapelboro. “This has no end, folks. We have no choice but to hang in there.”
Late Saturday, two federal courts ruled against parts of Trump’s executive order, preventing the deporting of people who arrived with valid U.S. visas and of permanent U.S. residents who had arrived at Dulles International Airport outside Washington. By Sunday, two more judges joined those in deeming the order unlawful and unconstitutional.
In Chapel Hill, several demonstrators, including visitors who learned of the protest on social media, compared Trump’s order to the turning away of Jews fleeing the Nazis during World War II.
Stephanie Ingram of Winston-Salem held a sign that stated “They came for the Muslims,” echoing the poem “First They Came” by Pastor Martin Niemöller about German intellectuals’ failure to resist the Nazis’ rise to power
UNC law professor Deborah Weissman said she came to the protest as a Jew. “The past is the present, and we have to make sure it will not be the future,” she said.
Dan Vermeer, founder and director of Duke University’s Center for Energy, Development, and the Global Environment, told the crowd about efforts to organize sanctuary churches and “sanctuary subdivisions” to welcome refugees and immigrants.
The Chapel Hill resident is working with a Triangle branch of Indivisible NC, organizations of groups offering guides to resisting the Trump agenda.
Though some towns have talked about establishing themselves as sanctuary cities, Vermeer pointed out that churches and neighborhoods do not depend on the federal dollars that Trump has threatened to withhold from jurisdictions protecting immigrants in the country illegally.
Baris Kesgin, a Chapel Hill resident from Turkey who teaches political science, said as a Muslim who has lived in this country for 14 years he decided to get involved in protest for the first time.
“This is not about Muslims,” Kesgin said as he thanked the protesters for coming out on Sunday afternoon. “This is not about seven countries. I am a Muslim. My country is not on that list; it may very well be on that list soon. Who knows? Don’t fight for my country or seven countries. Fight for one thing. We are human.”
A different color
Maggie Wold, 80, of Fearrington Village in Chatham County, took the post office steps to tell everyone she was an immigrant. Wold came to the U.S. from London 45 years ago.
“Should it make a difference if my face was a different color or I had a different dialect?” she asked. “We are angry. ... We need equality. We need good education. We need infrastructure.”
Navin Bapat, a UNC political science professor from Carrboro who studies terrorism, said the president’s ban could have unintended consequences.
“We are walling people off from the United States who are stuck in those most hellish of war zones,” he said. “And when they’re stuck in those most hellish of war zones, there’s only going to be one choice for those people – and that’s to cooperate with the very groups that we’re trying to defeat.”
Some of the protesters held up signs for Trump, echoing Bapat’s concerns.
“Terrorists are born from your hate,” stated one sign. “Welcome is an American value,” another stated.
Maya Tartar, a Chapel Hill fourth-grader, waved an American flag with one arm and held up a colorful sign with lots of hand-drawn hearts and stars with her message: “Immigrants are welcome here.”