No ban no wall rally
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Over 1,000 protesters converged on Main Street Cedar Falls Sunday shouting “No ban! No wall!” The demonstration spilled along several city blocks and into the intersection near the Cedar Falls Public Library and US Representative Rod Blum’s office.
They were voicing opposition to President Donald Trump’s executive orders regarding a travel ban, suspension of refugee programs and the construction of a wall along the southern border of the United States.
A group of around 40 counter-protesters, made of members of Cedar Valley Patriots for Christ, were gathered across the street in support of Trump and the executive orders.
“Today, we stand here together with one voice, to deliver one clear message to the President, to Representative Blum and to Senators [Joni] Ernst and [Chuck] Grassley: A wall shall not be built in our name,” said Chris Schwartz, Black Hawk County Supervisor and community organizer for Americans for Democratic Action, the rally organizers. “The Cedar Valley will never turn our backs on our immigrant and refugee brothers and sisters.” Schwartz called Trump’s executive orders “unconstitutional.”
Trump on Jan. 27 signed an executive order titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” It imposes a 90-day travel ban, with some exceptions, on the citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.
The order suspends the US Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days in order to “review the USRAP application and adjudication process to determine what additional procedures should be taken to ensure that those approved for refugee admission do not pose a threat to the security and welfare of the United States.” In addition, it indefinitely prohibits Syrian refugees from entering the US, saying, “The entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States.”
US District Court Judge James Robart issued a suspension of the ban on Friday, and a federal appeals court Sunday denied the US government’s emergency request to resume the ban, according to CNN.
“This is a fight that’s going to be won in the streets and in the courtrooms,” Schwartz said.
“We are saying to Mr. Trump that we refuse and we reject the demonization of Muslims,” said Dema Kazkaz, a Syrian immigrant as the crowd erupted in cheers.
Another executive order, signed by Trump on Jan. 25, orders departments to “secure the southern border of the United States through the immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border, monitored and supported by adequate personnel so as to prevent illegal immigration, drug and human trafficking, and acts of terrorism.”
Trump campaigned on a promise that Mexico would pay for the wall, but Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has denied this. Trump told ABC News on Jan. 25 that construction on the wall would begin “within months.”
Joana Lwin, a Burmese refugee, spoke to the crowd and said over half of refugees are children, “like me.” Lwin came to the US when she was 10 after spending nine years in a refugee camp in Thailand.
“Our task is to turn our outrage into positive action,” said Kamyar Enshayan, direcotr of the Cetner for Energy and Environmental Education and Iranian immigrant. Enshyan told anecdotes of encounters with doctors and others in the Cedar Valley who are immigrants from Iran, Iraq and other countries.
Sam Roche, senior TESOL major, said he was protesting Trump’s executive orders because “we are a nation of immigrants.” He said the desire to build walls comes from fear.
“What great story about a hero have you ever heard that begins with: ‘Once upon a time, there was a great and terrible dragon, and a valiant and brave hero built a wall to keep the dragon out?’” Roche said.
Judd Saul, founder of Cedar Valley Patriots for Christ, was demonstrating in favor of Trump.
“We are for the sovereignty of our country,” Saul said. “And the refugees and immigrants who are coming to this country need to be properly vetted and go through the right process to become part of our nation […] We’re here for the rule of law.”
Saul said the opposing demonstration was trying to “make something out nothing” in regards to Trump’s executive order banning immigrants from certain countries and are “trying to exploit it to push for their open border Communist policy.”
Behind Saul stood fellow protesters holding signs saying “Get over it, we won” and “Come legally or stay the f#@k over there!”
Randall DeBerg, a Kessley resident, held the “Get over it” sign. He said Trump is the nation’s president and that protesting his presidency “won’t change anything.”
“I don’t mind a peaceful protest,” DeBerg said. “And we’re just here to protest their protest.”
A UNI student from Saudia Arabia, who preferred to be called “Abdul,” said he came to the protest because “this is about my future.”
Abdul said although Saudi Arabia isn’t one of the seven countries affected by the ban, he’s scared just the same — he’s worried for his family’s ability to visit him in the future.
“What’s happened for them is going to happen for us,” Abdul said. “And we are [all] the same — human beings — and we have the same feelings.”
Main Street itself served, for the majority of the hour-long demonstration, as a line in the sand between No ban-No Wall protesters and counter protesters, but the peaceful divide between protesters was breached on several occasions.
Cedar Falls Police escorted a man with a bloodied nose to the back of a squad car. That man said he had been a member of the “No ban” demonstration, but claimed he was tackled by a member of the opposing protest.
Several officers declined to immediately comment on the altercation.
UNI students Clayton Ryan and Abe Miller provided a symphonic protest in the middle of Main Street; Ryan on acoustic guitar and vocals and Miller on saxophone.
“Oh! We don’t need your wall,” crooned Ryan just above the noise of a counter-protesters yelling “U-S-A!” and “Build that wall!” through megaphones.
Vail Shoars, a Waverly resident, placed yellow daisies in the hands of counter protesters to “promote positivity.” A man standing behind a large Trump campaign sign awkwardly accepted one of Shoars’s makeshift bouquets, saying “Thank you, but I grow my own.”
Two dozen community groups were listed as co-sponsors for the No Ban-No Wall protest, including Americans for Democratic Action, Waterloo Commission on Human Rights and various faith organizations in Waterloo and Cedar Falls.