“We Will Fight.” Thousands Gather in Westlake to Protest Immigration Ban

The momentum from Saturday night’s standoff at SeaTac Airport carried into orderly protests Sunday night.

All photos by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren

Thousands of people gathered Westlake Park Sunday evening to rally in solidarity with the Muslims, refugees and immigrants whose lives have been thrown into jeopardy by President Donald Trump’s executive order to deport and ban immigrants and refugees, including people who already hold green cards. As the night wore on, at least two different breakaway marches took to the the city streets in protest against Trump’s actions. There appear to have been no significant clashes between marchers and police.

Friday, President Trump signed an executive order banning all resettling refugees for four months, Syrians refugees indefinitely, and immigration regardless of visa from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen. Saturday, word got out that multiple immigrants were being deported via SeaTac Airport; within hours, hundreds of protesters arrived and blocked many entrances and exits while demanding the immigrants’ release. The national ACLU convinced a judge to temporarily block the deportations until a court could examine the legality of Trump’s executive order, which civil liberty advocates say is unconstitutional.

Sunday evening’s rally was more planned than the preceding night’s events. A steady stream of local and state dignitaries spoke loudly and with aggressive cadences about the immigrant ban. Their audience stretched across the entire park and into several streets. A forest of homemade signs peeped up out of the crowd, including “Jesus wasn’t a bigot,” “We see your wall and raise you a FUCKTON OF LOVE!” and the Statue of Liberty saying “Did I stutter?”

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“Donald Trump may have his ‘alternative facts,’” cried Gov. Jay Inslee from the park’s stage, “but we will not allow him to create an alternative nation!” The governor called Trump’s immigration order a “recruitment poster for ISIS.”

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Lt. Governor Cyris Habib, whose parents are Iranian immigrants, thanked Inslee for being “the most” concerned governor in America toward refugees, immigrants and Muslims.

“Nobody loves this country like the people who leave everything to earn a place here,” Habib said of immigrants’ patriotism. Several refugees whose family members were deported and/or banned by President Trump’s executive order told the crowd of their losses, sometimes through translators. A man from Aleppo described how he’d been “shocked” to learn that his two adult children, who were supposed to fly in Monday, were among the banned.

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U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, herself an Indian immigrant, called Trump’s executive order “inhumane and barbaric. It is also stupid,” she said, because it doesn’t improve Americans’ security. Jayapal, who Saturday at SeaTac negotiated for the release of detainees after a federal judge delayed the deportation order, told the crowd, “We were literally able to stop the plane on the runway” and save two people aboard from deportation. However, at least one man was deported to Somalia, she said.

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Calling one another “sisters,” King County Labor Council president Nicole Grant and Seattle councilmember Kshama Sawant (who is also an Indian immigrant) informed the crowd that they are helping to organize a nationwide strike on May 1—“a day of workers against Trump,” as Sawant called it, urging listeners to “shut down highways, airports, workplaces—peacefully, but defiantly.” Grant called Trump “a president who’s making good on fascist promises” to persecute scapegoated minority groups, while Sawant pointed to Saturday’s protests and civil disobedience at SeaTac Airport as an example of “the real power of the 99 percent.” Sawant also criticized Seattle police for “harassing peaceful protesters” that night while backing up SeaTac cops. (According to the SPD Blotter, Seattle cops did not make arrests or use pepper spray, though they did use bike walls.) Finally, she urged the assembled masses to reappear Wednesday morning at City Hall to support her proposal that Seattle end its financial relationships with DAPL-investor Wells Fargo.

Around 6:45 p.m., two people at different points in the crowd fainted within a minute of each other. Police and medical professionals in the crowd helped them.

M. Lorena González, whose parents were undocumented immigrants, told the crowd how personal this issue is to her. “This is the reason I was born,” she said of the struggle against Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda. González had this message for the president: “Not today, not yesterday, not ever.

“We will fight.”

As the evening drew on and speakers began to dwindle in vigor, at least two different ad hoc marches left Westlake Park and meandered around Seattle’s street grid.

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One went to Capitol Hill, the other to South Lake Union. Bicycle police escorted the marches, blocking off intersections from incoming cars while marchers passed through. Riot police with bats appeared when one of the marches came close to I-5, which has been a target of civilly disobedient marches in the past, but I did not see any physical violence between police and protests. The crowd was different, too: more moderate and mainstream than in most protests I’ve covered in Seattle. “Peacekeepers” wearing yellow armbands interceded in the one moment of physical conflict of the night (that I saw), when a threesome of twentysomething bros started chanting “Trump! Trump!” in an apparent, and successful, bid at getting under some of the marchers’ skin.

Best chant of the night: “Can’t build a wall; hands are too small!”

cjaywork@seattleweekly.com

This post has been updated. A paraphrase of a Pramila Jayapal quote has been corrected.

 

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