by Sara Flounders
January 29, 2017
New York City, Jan. 28 — Tonight was a vibrant, instant display of People Power. I was among many thousands of protesters at JFK International Airport.
A firestorm was unleashed by Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order declaring a racist ban on Muslims traveling to the U.S. from seven countries that have been targets of the U.S. military. News quickly swept the country that passengers from targeted countries were being stopped at U.S. Customs, even though they had visas, and were not being allowed to enter the U.S. The speed of Trump’s proclamation was intended to demoralize and overwhelm the whole population.
The opposite happened!
Every minute of tonight’s protest was an incredible, empowering experience. Even as we went out to the airport, other passengers, those waiting both on the subway platform and on the train itself, cheered us and shook our hands. Many took pictures, posing next to us and wishing us success.
Usually, you get stony stares and even some fearful glances if you are on a subway with protesters carrying signs to a demonstration.
When we switched from the subway to the AirTrain to JFK, police formed a line to try to stop us. They said only people with airline tickets would be permitted through the turnstiles. Our chants of “When Muslim lives are under attack, what do we do? Stand up! Fight back!” were picked up by hundreds of people who were stopped. The cops finally backed down after we all chanted nonstop: “Shut it down! Shut it down!”
That is when we suddenly realized we wouldn’t be a few hundred people at the airport. Many thousands were on their way and were refusing to be stopped. With chants, cheers and raw determination we all just swept past the police.
The entire International Arrivals Terminal was overwhelmed by demonstrators. They lined the railings of the parking garages and blocked traffic on the roads.
Even while chanting, everyone was on their phones — texting, tweeting, networking, connecting to friends to hurry to the airport to challenge Trump’s anti-Muslim travel ban.
Information swept through the crowds and was transmitted over social media. Airport workers waved and cheered. It was learned that the Taxi Drivers Alliance, so many of them immigrants, had called a work stoppage on trips to and from the airport in solidarity with the actions and against the ban.
The protests went viral. Word came of scores of other protests at airports across the U.S.
Federal Judge Ann Donnelly at U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, N.Y., soon granted a stop to deportations of all those detained on entry to the U.S. at airports nationwide. Her ruling followed a legal action filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. Minutes later Federal Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria, Va., issued a temporary restraining order blocking for seven days the removal of green-card holders detained at Dulles International Airport.
This short pause in deportations was propelled by sudden, massive pressure from below.
Today was a giant step in a protracted struggle. The massive protests on Jan. 20 and 21 had given new confidence to the struggle against Trumpism.
The lesson of today is that only the power of the people can force the courts to act. It is a valuable lesson. It is becoming increasingly clear to millions of people that voting won’t help them. The whole established order is frozen in crisis. Only immediate and massive people’s resistance can take on and take down Trump and his appointed nest of vipers.
This is a moment of unprecedented solidarity. The response to Trump has swept the country and moved tens of thousands into confrontation.