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Demonstrations Show Support for Refugees and Immigrants

Demonstrations Show Support for Refugees and Immigrants

(Leslie Ellis, Jan. 29, 2017)

Hamtramck and Detroit, MI  – Shouts of “No hate! No fear! Refugees are welcome here!” rang out Sunday in Hamtramck and at Detroit Metropolitan Airport as thousands of people protested President Donald Trump’s temporary travel ban on refugees and immigrants from seven mainly Muslim nations.

The Hamtramck event featured speakers of many creeds and colors – a group of nuns, immigrants, Muslims, Christians, union leaders, city officials, African-Americans, activists and a white social worker in training from Macomb County – all united in their commitment to the greater good.

“It was huge. This is more than we expected” said Adriene Avripas, who helped organize the protest for Metro-Detroit Political Action Network. “We planned this overnight in 10 hours.”

An official crowd estimate wasn’t available. But, more than 1,000 people RSVPd on Facebook to the protest outside Hamtramck City Hall. Many in the diverse audience said they had come from outside of Hamtramck, including cities throughout Oakland County.

Among them was Jen Lyons of Ferndale.

“I’m absolutely appalled the president put forth such an unconstitutional ban based on religion,” she said. “I love Ferndale and Hamtramck for their diversity and I wouldn’t live any other place.”

Hamtramck is a historically Polish city that now has a large Muslim population, while Ferndale is known for welcoming gay residents and its diverse school district.

Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter, who spoke to the crowd in Hamtramck, echoed Lyons’ sentiments.

“Ferndale is proof that diversity can be a strength, and when all people are welcomed and valued the entire community benefits,” he said. “We’re currently looking at policies that ensure immigrants feel welcome and safe in Ferndale. I expect us to do something formal soon.”

Ferndale Mayor Pro Tem Melanie Piana, Berkley City Councilman Steve Baker and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D Southfield, also attended.

“I will never be silent when I see there’s been an attack on our basic rights,” Lawrence said. “I will stand with the Muslim community, though you see there are more than just Muslims here. An injustice to one is an injustice to all.”

Following the rally, demonstrators conducted a symbolic march around the park in front of Hamtramck City Hall. Then, many carpooled to Metro Airport for another protest against the travel ban. More than 3,500 RSVPd to the airport protest on its Facebook event page.

Julie Rees Frame was among the protestors at the airport.  “I went to stand with others and show the Muslim community that we support them and know they belong here. I also went to send a message to Trump and his administration that bigotry will not be tolerated.”

TJ Rogers, Program Manager at Freedom House was at the Airport protest.  He and others surrounded a group of Muslims to protect them as they prayed, and his photo of prayer was shared widely on social media.  Rogers said “There are certain moments in life you desperately want to capture so you can remember the vivid beauty, and this was my attempt. In these especially challenging times, this photo represents and reminds me of the America I know and love: assembly and dissent; diversity and safety; community, solidarity, and inclusion; and, at the most basic level, the freedom to be.”

Joining the demonstrators, who braved freezing temperatures and snow outside the airport, were U.S. Reps Lawrence and Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, as well as State Reps. Jim Ellison, D-Royal Oak, and Robert Wittenberg, D-Oak Park.

I was inspired by the kindness and camaraderie of everyone. It was very peaceful,” Wittenberg said. “I encourage residents to reach out to me and their federal representatives with their concerns. While I don’t vote on policy in D.C., I have good relationships with most of our congressional delegation and our U.S. senators. I will make sure that their voices are heard.”

Wittenberg shared photos from the event on his Facebook page, as well as a reminder of what the United States stands for, a quote from Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus” that’s inscribed on The Statue of Liberty’s pedestal, welcoming immigrants to the country:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”

The protests are not the first since Donald Trump’s election.  Last weekend over 9,000 people marched in Lansing and over 500,000 marched in Washington DC on behalf of women’s rights.  After the election Love Marches were held across the country to show support for people who have been targeted for discrimination and hate since the election season began.


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