About 200 people gathered in downtown Anchorage on Sunday night to protest President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees, which bans certain people from entering the country.
Protestors waved signs with sayings like “Fear is a mind killer,” “Jesus was a refugee” and “First they came for the Muslims, and we said ‘Hell No.’”
Protestor Asha Artan is originally from Somalia but moved to the United States 15 years ago.
“I don’t feel good,” Artan said about the ban, because it bars her from going back to Somalia to visit her aging mother and other family members. With the ban in place, she wouldn’t be able to return home to Anchorage.
Artan’s children are U.S. citizens and go to school here. “Every time they go to school, they learn ‘One nation, under God.'” But now, the country is divided, she said. “I need the people together.”
The crowd echoed her sentiments with chants like “The people, united. We will not be divided,” and “No ban, no fear. Refugees are welcome here.”
“This is folly,” Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said about the executive order, which was signed on Friday. “It undermines constitutional principles, it makes our streets less safe, and it puts our country at jeopardy.”
Berkowitz said his administration and the Anchorage police remain dedicated to protecting everyone in the community, no matter where they come from.
Police were present at the protest and served as crowd control, making sure no one stepped into the traffic at the corner of A Street and 7th Avenue. Protestors thanked them for being there.
Anchorage resident Adam Harki held a sign that read “Proud son of a Muslim Refugee.” His father came to the United States from Iraq in the late 1970s. Harki said it’s important to speak up for the rights of others all the time, not just during protests.
“Educate our friends. And when our friends say something that might border on ignorance or intolerance, speak up, ” Harki said. “Be heard. Don’t sit back and do nothing. I think that type of complacency is probably the worst thing we can do.”
Rabbi Michael Oblath attended the event and said the ban was a product of fear and goes against religious traditions of supporting and respecting people who are different.
“When we start finding scapegoats, there’s something wrong with us and that we’re ignoring,” Oblath said. “And it takes a lot of serious, serious mindful thinking to understand what it is that’s pushing us in that direction.”
Anchorage resident Michelle Sinnott said she protested to show her neighbors that she stands with them.
“I’m here for the long haul and I think everyone else is, too. I’m digging in,” Sinnott said.