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UPDATED: January 28, 2017 at 9:56 p.m.
Hours after President Donald Trump closed off America’s borders to Syrian refugees and suspended immigration from several predominantly Muslim countries, over 150 Harvard affiliates assembled in the Square Friday evening in an “emergency protest” of Trump’s policies.
Gathered at the corner of JFK St. and Massachusetts Ave., students and faculty brandished homemade posters and chanted slogans in protest of an executive order Trump signed Friday halting the entry of all refugees into the United States for 120 days. The order suspends immigration from seven Middle Eastern countries for 90 days, and bars Syrians—including refugees—from entering the United States indefinitely.
The protest also came two days after Trump ordered a wall be built on the border between the United States and Mexico.
“We’ve all been pretty crippled by the horrible news that’s been coming out, but more so by the uncertainty of what’s to come,” Hazami Barmada, an organizer and student at the Kennedy School, said to protesters. “But this [protest] is not anything political.”
“This is not about us being anti-anything,” Barmada added. “This is about us being for something—for justice, for peace, for humanity.”
The Global Justice Working Group, a student activist group at the Kennedy School, led the “impromptu” rally, according to Rana Abdelhamid, another organizer and Kennedy School student. Protesters chanted “The people, united, will never be divided” in both English and Spanish between speeches from organizers and activists. In addition to students from the Kennedy School, students from the College, Law School, and School of Public Health also joined the rally.
“Welcome to the resistance!” Timothy P. McCarthy, a History and Literature lecturer who also teaches at the Kennedy School, said to kick off the protest.
“This is the time for resistance. It is a time for opposition. But it is also a time for us to all come together across different races and across from all the different places where we work—to come together to take the country back from the forces that are trying to steal it from us and deny us our fundamental human rights,” McCarthy said.
Some attendees said they were there to demonstrate unity and stand behind those who will likely be affected by Trump’s executive orders.
Jesus Reyes Ruiz, a student at the Kennedy School and a member of the school’s Mexican Caucus, said that he attended the rally to represent “the Mexican community here” but also stand in solidarity with “our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters.”
“The most important thing that we’re here to show support for is standing against the executive actions that have been issued by the President,” he said. “We believe them to be profoundly un-American.”
Paul A. Ochoa, a student at the Kennedy School and native of Tijuana, Mexico, said he wanted to support his hometown and rally against the proposed border wall.
“If you don’t know Tijuana, it’s the border city of San Diego and Mexico,” Ochoa said. “We consider both cities...one big community and the idea that there be another wall—because there’s already a large fence there—doesn’t make sense.”
Ari Berman ’19 said she attended the rally out of concern for the impact Trump’s immigration restrictions will have on refugees. Most refugees, she said, “are escaping prosecution and radicalization and just trying to rebuild their lives, which have been torn to the ground.”
Closing out the rally, organizers called on attendees to stand with Muslims, women, and minorities who might be anxious about their future under the Trump administration.
“The power of the people is stronger than the people in power,” Abdelhamid said. “We did this in four hours. Imagine what we can do, and imagine what we’re going to continue to do, to fight against bigotry and to fight against discrimination in the next four years.”
Harvard students have also started organizing to attend similar protests of Trump’s policies in the Boston area on Sunday.
—Staff writer Derek G. Xiao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @derekgxiao.
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