Protestors in Battery Park Respond to JFK Detainees

Jemima McEvoy and Sayer Devlin

After 17 people were detained without charges this morning in John F. Kennedy Airport, protesters and elected officials gathered in Battery Park to speak against President Donald Trump’s slew of executive orders banning immigrants from seven Muslim majority countries and halting the entry of refugees into the country.

The New York Immigration Coalition, Make the Road New York, the National Immigration Law Center and several other New York-based organizations coordinated the rally, and over 10,000 supporters attended, voicing distress for the many immigrants, Muslims and refugees targeted by Trump’s recent executive order in a march to the Offices of Customs and Border Control by City Hall.

The public officials, activists and organization representatives that addressed the crowd spoke in a mix of both Spanish and English. Among the speakers were New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, New York Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Mayor Bill de Blasio, activist Linda Sarsour and U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler.  Many elected officials were also present at the rally in Washington Square Park on Wednesday, which promoted a similar message of open borders with the hashtag #NoBanNoWall.

Protesters chanted “no hate, no fear, Muslims are welcome here” and “aqui estamos y no nos vamos” before New York Senator Chuck Schumer took to the stage. Addressing the crowd, Schumer said that the protests in JFK contributed to the fight against Trump’s recent executive orders regarding immigration.

“Because of your actions, he [Secretary John F. Kelly] promised me that the 42 who are detained and under court order to be released, will be released to the United States and to freedom shortly,” Schumer said during his speech. “So we’ve made progress for 42 — we have to make progress for thousands and tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands more.”

Among those detained at JFK was NYU Ph.D. student Narges Bayani, who studies in the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. Bayani was initially detained on Saturday while trying to enter the country, but has since been released.

NYU Spokesperson John Beckman said that NYU’s primary concern is the welfare of the students, faculty, researchers and employees affected by Friday’s immigration order. Beckman said that the university has reached out to those who may be subject to the order to provide support.

“One NYU student was detained at the airport in New York; we are very glad to report that she was permitted to enter the country Sunday morning, thanks to the intervention of our Law School’s Immigrant Rights Clinic,” Beckman said. “NYU is also very grateful to Senator Chuck Schumer, Senator Kristen Gillibrand and Congressman Jerrold Nadler, who also intervened on the student’s behalf at the request of the university.”

Beckman also said that the university is prepared to support students in any future incidents — the Immigrants Rights Clinic will announce shortly that it has developed a special program to assist members of the NYU community who are at risk of being deported. He said the university is working with the law firm WilmerHale to deal with additional situations as they arise on a case-by-case basis.

CAS senior Sana Mayat is the NYU’s Muslim Student Association vice president, and she expressed surprise and pride to see the number of non-Muslims that showed up at the rally.

“People are saying that an attack on one is an attack on everyone, not just an issue that is limited to one group,” Mayat said. “It is really impactful and it gives me a lot of hope.”

Mayat said that even those who are not directly affected by these executive orders and their consequences should reach out to their local governments and call for change.

“At the end of the day we’re not in positions of power, we’re not legislators, but we have impact on those legislators,” Mayat said. “I think it’s important to let people know that we’re here and we’re angry and we’re not ok with this. I think that this could impact how policy, change and legislation happens, and how court orders are carried out.”

CAS freshman Claudia Franke attended the protest and said that the message of Sunday’s rally particularly resonated with her, since she has family members living in the U.S. with green cards. She attended to show solidarity with her family and friends, which for her is a form of therapy.
“My mom is from Turkey, and while Trump may be friends with Erdogan for now, his actions in the past week have shown him and his administration to be irrational and capable of violating the Constitution,” Franke said. “It’s comforting to be around people who feel the same way you do and share the same fears, and I was empowered by the diversity of today’s crowd — especially compared to the makeup at last week’s Women’s March.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Jan. 30 print edition. Email Jemima McEvoy and Sayer Devlin at [email protected]