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Rochester protesters strike defiant tone

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Sunday’s rally in Washington Square Park was both a moment of catharsis and an act of defiance against President Donald Trump for his immigration ban, enacted by executive order on Friday.

The order temporarily bans citizens of six Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States: Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and Iraq. Syrian immigrants are banned indefinitely. (A federal judge in New York blocked part of the order on Saturday, but the overall ban remains in place.)

The outrage was immediate and global, with many calling the ban a religious test that flies in the face of American ideals and that will actually embolden terrorists.

Confusion over the order resulted in chaos at US airports as people with visas and green cards were prevented from entering the country. Families were separated and protesters swarmed.

The airport protests inspired local activists from Action Together Rochester to organize the Washington Square Park rally. About 500 people attended. People recited pro-immigration chants and held signs denouncing Trump and vowing support for refugees.

Speakers called Trump’s ban inhumane and unconstitutional and called on the community to unite and resist in the face of his divisive actions.

Sareer Fazili, president of the board for the Islamic Center of Rochester, said that he was humbled by the show of support for the local Muslim community. The prophet Muhammad was sent to earth as a mercy to mankind, he said, but “today, non-Muslims are showing Muslims what mercy to mankind is all about.”

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren delivered a fiery speech defending Rochester as a sanctuary city (a designation for cities that provide refuge for undocumented immigrants.) Trump has threatened to deny these cities federal grants.

Warren said that she would not let Trump intimidate Rochester.

“Thank you for showing the world that here in Rochester, New York, we still carry on the work of Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony, because we are here in a city where love trumps hate and love will continue to trump hate,” Warren shouted. “And we will not be bullied!”

Another speaker said that her brother-in-law won’t visit family in Lebanon because he’s afraid he won’t be allowed back into the US.

“It’s something we thought living here, we wouldn’t have to see,” she said. “The reality is, though, we’re here.”
“We have dark days ahead, folks,” she said. “I want to be up here and be cheerful, but we have dark days ahead. Reach down deep inside and think about what you’re going to have to do, because rallying in a park may not be enough.

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