“Disgusting” and “un-American.” That’s how one protester described Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily halting the entire U.S. refugee program and banning all entries from seven Muslim-majority nations for 90 days
Kate Nelson said it’s why she chose to participate in a protest against the ban at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Sunday night.
“It’s a ban targeting people based on their religion. that’s discrimination. Just because something is legal, which it could be argued that the ban wasn’t legal, doesn’t mean it’s right,” she said. “Slavery was legal, rounding up the Jews during the Holocaust was legal, Japanese internment camps were legal. All were horrific.”
Molly Anderson, a 23-year-old from Athens who worked in Oakwood for a number of years, is another young adult who chose to participate in the protest.
She went on behalf of her best friend, who is a Pakistani Muslim.
“Obviously Muslims do not have much of a voice in this country right now, so I wanted to be that voice for him,” she said.
Anderson said her friend’s grandmother is currently visiting her family, and the ban may affect her too.
“I went to stand up for those who do not have the right to stand up for themselves, and I want refugees to know that not all Americans have the views of our president,” Anderson said.
Nelson, who lives in Duluth but works in Gainesville, found out about the protest online.
Will Shirley, of Flowery Branch, was also in attendance and heard about the protest details through Facebook.
“I haven't been to a protest since Occupy Wall Street … It was a different atmosphere yesterday,” Shirley said. “The police weren’t combative. They were, dare I say, supportive. It was a supportive, inclusive atmosphere, from everyone involved.”
The 25-year-old man only counted two cars that came through the drop-off lane with “disapproving gestures” and said the crowd was passive and didn’t become angry, mean or violent at any point.
“(The gestures) dampened enthusiasm momentarily, but soon it'd be back to a happy, cohesive occasion. It wasn't your usual ‘leftist’ movement. The demography leaned young, and female, and liberal, for sure, but then, there was that ‘Rednecks for Immigrants’ sign you couldn't miss,” he said.
Shirley felt he had to be there. He had seen a Facebook invite and marked himself “interested” in the event, but hadn’t decided whether or not to go. Later that same morning he saw a quote.
“Something to the effect of, ‘You are what you did. What you would do is what you did do.’ So, I decided that I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I wasn't there, making my voice heard, to stand up against what I feel are poorly considered policies that don't speak for what I believe the USA stands for,” Shirley said.
Like Shirley, 24-year-old Nelson went alone.
She showed up around 4 p.m. after riding the Doraville MARTA to the Delta side of the airport. She brought along a quickly made sign that she fashioned out of an old sketch book backing on which she wrote “NO BAN! NO HATE!” in skinny, light blue lettering.
Nelson had only been at one protest-like event, a rally held by the Invisible Children organization, when she was 16 years old. The rally attempted to raise awareness about child soldiers in African countries.
That experience prepared her for this one. Before she got on the train, she felt slightly nervous. She called her dad to tell him she was protesting and that he may have to bail her out of jail. Her boyfriend, Shane Driscoll, was also notified.
“(Shane) was really nervous about me going because of people being arrested or hurt during other protests,” she said.
However, her nerves were for naught.
“Turned out we didn’t need to worry, since the protest was so controlled and people were very conscious of obeying the law. The group putting it on even advised we write the number of an attorney they recommended on our arms, just in case we were arrested,” Nelson said.
The train ride also helped soothe her fears and was the most influential moment of her experience.
“The most heartwarming thing was being on the train, watching strangers help each other make signs, sitting on each other’s laps to make room, holding each other’s bags,” she said.
She also noted that all protesters would move out of the way and were respectful of those traveling to and from the airport. Nelson also saw people passing out free water bottles and picking up trash along the way.
“Honestly, seeing all of those people pull together to fight discrimination, it was the best I’ve felt since the election,” she said.