For a few hours on Saturday afternoon, Halifax Mall felt like Robeson County.
That is, the thousands who joined the “No Ban, No Wall, No Fear” rally in Raleighexact crowd numbers weren’t available, but more than thirty-five hundred people signed up on a Facebook page dedicated to the eventreflected the prismatic diversity that marks Robeson, in northeastern North Carolina. Just as in those parts, it was a bad bet, at the event behind the General Assembly building, to try to determine anyone’s ethnicity by skin color or by any other indicator.
Some behind-the-scenes disagreements prompted a few participants to drop out, but most were united on the day of the rally. “No Ban” will be followed by what’s likely to be a larger event on Saturday, February 11, the Moral March on Raleigh, also known as HKonJ.
Many people who spoke to the INDY said they’d been moved to action by their outrage over President Trump’s announced temporary ban on refugees and visitors from seven predominantly Muslim nations.
“It’s restricting the civil freedoms that I have,” said Mohamed Ricks, a twenty-seven-year-old Raleigh resident who holds two jobs and goes to school. Ricks has been a U.S. citizen since 2002 but still feels threatened because of his Somalian background. “My being an actual citizen doesn’t have any hold anymore. I do have my passport. But it’s harder to try to subscribe to the so-called American dream.”
Shortly after the rally ended, a federal judge in Washington state temporarily stayed the refugee ban; the Trump administration pledged to appeal (with Trump blasting the “so-called judge” on Twitter).
“I can’t believe this is happening in 2017,” said Kellee Faulconbridge, a twenty-six-year-old Raleigh student who came out to demonstrate for the first time. “It’s baffling to me. I wanted to support an event that’s against everything in our current situation.”
Cassandra Rowe, a twenty-nine-year-old from Durham, said Trump’s explicit comments about his ability to take advantage of women, recorded in a 2005 video, led her to link those words with global stances toward marginalized people.
“It got me personally,” said Rowe, who works with the N.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “An attack on one of us is an attack on us all.”
Also on Saturday, Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the state Republican Party, countered that Trump is working to fulfill his pledge to stop illegal immigration, a goal that Woodhouse argued most North Carolinians support, protests notwithstanding.
“I think the constant protesting class do seem to forget that most people want to see our new president be successful,” Woodhouse said at a press event held in response to the rally.
That’s a contention the thousands who descended on Halifax Mall Saturday would dispute. A brisk, sunny day drew protesters not only of different backgrounds but also of nearly all ages and tenures in social justice causes.
“When you start attacking people’s rights and people’s lives, people out of fear have to become active,” said Carly Jones, a rally organizer.
Drums, chants, and signs delved into biblical language and American history as movement veterans tied modern events to currents that have long marked the nation’s history. “This is not just a Trump problem, this is an American problem,” speaker Desmera Gatewood, of Durham, told the crowd.
Organizer Sijal Nasralla said speakers were chosen on the basis of their involvement in refugee issues or because they have been directly affected by current policies.
Among those addressing the crowd was Wildin Acosta, a Durham high school student who was detained by authorities last year, spent seven months at a private facility in Georgia, and was nearly deported [“Trapped in the Machine,” March 30, 2016]. “My hope is that we could have a change in the laws that we are dealing with today,” Acosta said through a translator, attributing to Trump increases in racism and antagonism toward refugees. “Before, we knew that this country used to belong to indigenous people.”
As crowds left the event, walking past the General Assembly building alone or in crowds, Khaled Fayed, twenty-five, was wheeling his young son toward his car.
“It’s crazy, especially if you look at the map, it’s very clear that he’s banning the entire region,” Fayed said of Trump’s immigration order. Fayed is an immigrant, an electrical engineer whose wife is a U.S. citizen; he’s applied for his green card. “And the way he implemented this is so inhumane.”
Although the federal order was halted Saturday night, the Justice Department will appeal, first to the Court of Appeals and then, perhaps, to the Supreme Court. This means that a planned April visit by Fayed’s Egyptian in-laws is in flux and will likely remain that way for the near future.
“They already have their visas,” he said, expressing his frustration over the situation, especially given his attachment to his adopted country. “I really love this country and I love the values this country is based on. I have the American flag in the highest place in my home.”
This article appeared in print with the headline “Voices of the Movement.”