NYC students protest Trump’s ban on refugees, immigrants

New York City students rally in Foley Square in Manhattan on Feb. 7, 2017, as part of a citywide walkout in protest over President Donald Trump's immigration travel ban.
New York City students rally in Foley Square in Manhattan on Feb. 7, 2017, as part of a citywide walkout in protest over President Donald Trump’s immigration travel ban. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Michael Krinke

Several hundred area students gathered in Foley Square early Tuesday afternoon to protest President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration. 

A rotating group of speakers, including 17-year-old organizer Hebh Jamal, led the loose rally, with call-and-response chants including, “We know the president is anti-immigrant. We know there are 50,000 New Yorkers whose future is uncertain.”

The crowd also repeated, “The people united will never be defeated.”

The protesters, many of them high school students, weathered the rain with umbrellas and hooded coats to take part in the citywide walkout.

Rayan Hassounya, a senior at Young Women’s Leadership School in Astoria, said she showed up, in part, because “if you don’t make yourself heard, it looks as if you’re accepting this.” A U.S. citizen of Moroccan descent, Hassounya said that Trump’s order is “clearly a Muslim ban.”

“It’s heartbreaking to think people don’t want you because of what you believe,” the 17-year-old said.

Public Advocate Letitia James spoke briefly, encourging the ralliers to “rise up.”

“My scholars, you’ve got to rise up, rise up like so many have done before you. And you have to resist like so many before you,” James said. “And when you rise up, your class, your assignment is to organize.”

She then led a chant of “Rise up, resist, repeat.”

Selam Murphy, 17, said it was worth being marked absent from school Tuesday in order to show support. 

“Daily life cannot just continue as is, when others are suffering,” the Beacon High School student said, noting that she’s an immigrant herself.

Before performing her song “Stronger Together,” Kashish Shamsi, 23, told the crowd she was proud they’d gathered to represent New York City schools. 

“I wasn’t ready for this sadness, I wasn’t ready for these tears. I wasn’t ready for this madness, no, I wasn’t ready for these fears,” Shamsi sang, before protesters joined her on a chorus of “we are stronger together.”

After about 90 minutes in Foley Square, protesters headed to 26 Federal Plaza, continuing the rally with chants such as “Donald Trump go away. Racist, sexist, anti-gay.” Though the numbers dwindled, the group then walked throughout Lower Manhattan before some 200 people landed in Union Square.

While the rally, “Students Resist! Walkout for a Better Tomorrow,” was framed largely as against the travel ban, a number of issues were voiced – messages including “black lives matter,” “trans lives matter,” “my body, my choice” and “whose street? our street” were heard alongside “we are people, we are not illegal.”

“In two weeks of his presidency, he’s done more to destroy America than anyone else ever,” Mackenzie Brady, 15, said. Now a U.S. citizen, Brady said she’s from Ireland.

The event was pulled together by Jamal, from the Bronx, and co-sponsored by the New York Immigration Coalition, Arab American Association of New York and MPower Change.

“I’m so happy that students from across the city care enough to be a part of this,” Jamal said during the rally.

Trump’s executive order bars refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries. While it was temporarily blocked by a federal judge on Friday, the organizers of the walkout, on their Facebook page for the event, say they “must remain vigilant.”

“I’m not personally affected, but I want to show the people who are there is a huge group of people who support them,” said Lila Dominus, 15, a freshman at The Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn Heights.

With Sheila Feeney

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