Outrage over President Trump’s travel ban targeting citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries spilled over in the Twin Cities on Sunday as thousands left home to denounce the new policy.
The actions ranged from denunciations by Minnesota’s two Democratic U.S. Senators to a large airport rally and an even bigger turnout in the heart of Minneapolis’ Somali community.
About 1,000 gathered just outside Terminal 1 at Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport, and later moved indoors against police orders, waving signs and chanting for nearly three hours. Parents with small children, retirees, and people of every color stood and shouted in the cold on a bright afternoon, then from the mezzanine overlooking the ticket counters.
“No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here,” protesters shouted.
Another protest is being plannedtoday at the airport starting at 3:30 p.m. and going into the evening.
The Twin Cities rally on Sunday echoed sizable ones at U.S. airports from Los Angeles to New York on Sunday, as people across the country voiced opposition to an executive order that caused travelers from the Middle East to be detained and threw into doubt the travel plans of many thousands.
On Saturday night, a federal judge issued an order staying at least part of the ban, adding uncertainty to an already chaotic situation.
At a joint news conference Sunday morning in St. Paul, Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar blasted the presidential order and called for it to be rescinded. The senators stood with a Minneapolis mother whose 4-year-old daughter could be stranded in Uganda as a result of the travel ban.
“This order was put out in a way that is terribly confusing. It is possibly, very probably, unconstitutional in that it targets country of origin and religion,” Franken said. “This is not our country.”
The mother, Samira Dahir, a Somali refugee who came to Minneapolis in 2013, said her daughter Mushkaad was scheduled to fly with an escort from Kampala to Minnesota on Monday, but her status is in doubt.
The girl had to stay with family friends in Uganda because Dahir was pregnant with her when she was granted refugee status, and the infant child would not have been allowed to come with her mother.
Either Dahir had to wait another four years to apply to come to the United States, or she could leave her little girl with friends and try to get her a visa later. Dahir chose the latter, and after years of work to reunite her family, Trump’s executive order came at the worst possible time: three days before her daughter’s scheduled trip to Minnesota.
“We’re hopeful,” Dahir said. “We don’t know yet.”
The child’s sisters, Muwatib and Mumtaz, wearing purple and pink jackets, stood next to Klobuchar.
“These are the faces, right here, of who this is affecting,” Klobuchar said. “These little pink jackets. A 4-year-old. And it’s happening over and over.”
Klobuchar called the executive order “irresponsible and unconscionable” and pointed out that numerous Republican Senators have come out against the order, which bans immigrants or visa holders from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen for the next 90 days.
Franken and Klobuchar said they would be speaking with Trump’s Secretary of Homeland Security, John Kelly, later on Sunday.
Trump supporters pointed to President Jimmy Carter’s ban on Iranian visas during the hostage crisis in 1979 and 1980 as precedent for the move, and Trump himself issued a statement Sunday saying that the seven countries listed in his executive order are the same countries identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror.
“To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting,” Trump said. “This is not about religion — this is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order. We will again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days.”
But Trump’s action was still widely interpreted as an attack on Muslims by many in Minnesota.
As a crowd of several hundred outdoor demonstrators chanted “Hey, ho, the Muslim ban has got to go,” about 1,500 people filed into a community meeting organized by Rep. Ilhan Omar at the Brian Coyle Community Center in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis.
Omar said she has a speaking engagement in Turkey next week and is considering not going because she’s not sure she will come back to her children. “This isn’t just something that is happening to other people, this is happening to us,” she said.
Jeylani Hussein from CAIR-MN said Trump’s refugee ban will “play into the hands of our enemies” instead of improving the country’s safety.
Other speakers included representatives from Black Lives Matter and several Somali nonprofits along with Jason Sole, NAACP-Minneapolis president and John Keller, executive director of the Immigrant Law Center Minnesota.
Nearly a dozen elected officials, including Rep. Peggy Flanagan, Rep. Erin Murphy, Rep. John Hoffman, Rep. Patricia Torres Ray, Minneapolis City Council member Abdi Warsame, Mayor Betsy Hodges, and Minneapolis school board member Kerry Jo Felder, attended to show their support.
At the airport, two people were arrested — one man who sat in the roadway and another who didn’t leave the terminal quickly enough toward the end of the protest, said Patrick Hogan, a spokesman for the airport. But the protest remained mostly peaceful, even as police forced the rally downstairs toward the light rail station. Travel was not disrupted.
“It didn’t stop anybody from getting their tickets and going about their business,” Hogan said.
Staff writer Erin Adler contributed to this report.