Hundreds of protestors flooded the outside of Terminal 2 at Raleigh-Durham International Airport Sunday afternoon to protest President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration.
At least ten cities nationwide have seen airport protests since Trump signed the executive order Friday, with protestors gathering from Los Angeles to New York. The order halted immigration to the United States from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, although federal court judges have issued orders temporarily stopping deportations pending further litigation.
At its largest point, the crowd at RDU stretched a majority of the length of the airport’s Terminal 2. The protest remained peaceful, although police did have to disperse the crowd when it grew too large. There was not a specific group responsible for organizing the event, but organizer Amanda Weissman said that the American Civil Liberties Union and other human rights organizations were present.
“We’re protesting the ‘Muslim-ban’ in seven countries, deportation, [the immigration laws] that Trump is trying to put into place,” she said.
The airport issued a permit for a protest from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Weissman explained. According to a release on their website, RDU also set aside special parking for protestors at a discounted rate at the General Aviation terminal. Buses could be seen bringing the crowds in throughout the event.
The view of the crowd from the 5th floor of the parking garage: https://t.co/Ml3bUspON1— Bre Bradham (@brebradham) January 29, 2017
By 12:45 p.m., a small group had already begun to gather, restricted to the end of terminal by a police car and, slightly later on, a yellow-tape police line. The crowd continued to grow, with more protestors coming by bus throughout the protest. Officials moved the police car and line back when the crowd grew too large to be confined to the original area.
Throughout the protest, the scene was dotted with signs such as “hug me, I’m Sudanese” and “y’all means all." Melody Moezzi, an activist and writer, held a sign that read “this proud Iranian-American Muslim will not hide or shut up! I will resist!” Protestors started various cheers, from “this is what democracy looks like” to “no hate, no fear—refugees are welcome here.” As the crowd grew, different chants could be heard from either end of the large crowd.
Police stood at the doors to the inside of the terminal, preventing protestors from entering the main building. Traffic was diverted from the upper deck of the terminal occupied by the protestors to the lower level, although one lane remained clear on the upper deck for the busses carrying protestors to get through.
By about 3 p.m., the protest spanned nearly the entire length of Terminal 2, with a heavier police presence. The police began to tell the individuals at the front line that it was time to disperse, and an effort was made to back the crowd up.
By 3:30 p.m., an airport officer said that there had been no arrests made. Thirty minutes later, the police were dispersing the last of the crowd. An officer, carrying a handful of zip-ties, informed protestors that it was their “last warning” as the crowd was hesitant to leave.
Even while the police were escorting protestors out the area, some members of the crowd helped ease the dispersal. Julia Sherifi, a refugee and protestor, used a microphone from a police car to encourage her fellow protestors to leave after their permit was revoked.
There's clearly mutual respect being displayed as both sides keep their distance. The current scene at RDU: pic.twitter.com/owMysAaIHL— Bre Bradham (@brebradham) January 29, 2017
Not everyone at RDU on Sunday came for the protests. One Raleigh couple had just landed at the airport following a flight from Philadelphia. However, they—along with their luggage—quickly joined the crowd.
A number of Duke students were present, including first-year Maya Iskandarani.
“There’s a chance that this policy will keep me from returning to Lebanon to see my family members,” she said. “While Lebanon is not currently on the list of countries from which international travelers cannot enter the United States, there’s a chance that it might be. That’s why I’m here.”
Fellow first-year Ivan Robles cited the executive order’s “unconstitutionality” as one of his reasons for protesting.
“The United States is a country of immigrants,” he said. “We are based on our diversity. We are created with our diversity. What Trump and his administration are doing is just wrong, and we as a people need to work to strike that down.”
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Bre is a senior political science major from South Carolina, and she is the current video editor, special projects editor and recruitment chair for The Chronicle. She is also an associate photography editor and an investigations editor. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief and local and national news department head.