RDU Protesters Say 'Refugees Are Welcome Here'

Jan 30, 2017

Hundreds of protesters packed the area outside Terminal 2 at RDU Airport on Sunday to speak out against President Donald Trump’s recent executive order on immigration.

As travelers pulled their carry-ons towards airline check-in desks, demonstrators chanted “Refugees are welcome here, no hate, no fear.”

“Banning a group of people because of what they suspect could be problematic when they have no proof, and after they have gone through an extreme vetting process and should become American citizens and should be able to live here in peace...it’s just wrong, and I’m tired,” said protester Mark Simmons, who lives in Durham. “I just need to stand up. Enough is enough.”

Rob Breiner and his wife said they drove down from Mebane to join the demonstration because, as Christians, they believe no one should be turned away from the country on the basis of religion, race, or ethnicity.

The couple carried North Carolina-themed signs reading, “Y’all means all” and “Biscuits, not bigotry.”

“There’s people out here now that are loving my sign, not only for the humor in it, but also for the truth that’s carried with it,” Breiner said. “That we should open our arms, open our doors, open our kitchens and say, ‘Let’s get everyone together and have a bite and talk it over.’”

Issued Friday, Trump’s order temporarily bars the citizens of seven predominantly-Muslim countries, including refugees, from entering the United States. It was partially blocked a federal judge who issued a stay Saturday night temporarily preventing federal agents from deporting anyone who has already entered the country with a valid visa. That stay does not apply to those entering the country in upcoming days.

Protesters chant, "Refugees are welcome here, no hate, no fear," at RDU Airport on Sunday.
Credit Lisa Philip / WUNC

In a statement Sunday, Governor Roy Cooper said that Trump’s executive action “will make our homeland and our troops serving overseas less safe.”

“Our vetting process has to be tough and thorough, but we should not impose a religious test to enter the country,” the statement reads. “It's especially troubling that individuals who risked their lives to protect our troops and served alongside them are now being turned away. We can secure the safety of our country without separating families, hurting our businesses, and turning away good people who need our help."

Trump defended his executive action in a statement on Sunday, saying that it was intended to keep the country safe.

The immigration freeze has prompted protests this weekend at airports and cities across the country.

RDU Airport had sanctioned the protest there, but announced shortly before 3 p.m. via Twitter that it was dispersing the crowd early because it was much larger than anticipated.

“The permit was for 150 people,” the airport’s tweet read. “More than 1000 came. Now, our 1st priority is the safety of the traveler and protester alike.”

The large crowd resisted police requests to leave the protest, and continued to chant, “The Muslim ban has got to go, hey hey, ho ho.”

Kulsum Tasnif and her family, residents of Raleigh, were some of the last demonstrators to remain. Tasnif, who is of Pakistani descent, held a sign she had painted of a woman in a hijab saying, “Honey, I Am Home.”

“To anyone who says, ‘Don’t protest,’ or, ‘If you don’t like it, go back home,’” Tasnif said, “the answer is, ‘Honey, I am home.’ This is my home. And we’re not going anywhere.”

Kulsum Tasnif, a Raleigh resident of Pakistani descent, painted this sign for the protest of President Donald Trump's immigration freeze at RDU Airport on Sunday.
Credit Lisa Philip / WUNC