It started Saturday morning, January 28, as a peaceful protest with a few people holding cardboard signs outside JFK International Airport, to protest the detaining inside of two Iraqi refugees from President Donald Trump’s executive order. The small group grew into a gigantic crowd by the end of the day.
According to The New York Times, “They filled the sidewalks outside the terminal and packed three stories of a parking garage across the street, a mass of people driven by emotion to this far-flung corner of the city, singing, chanting and unfurling banners.
This was the most public expression of the intense reaction generated across the country by Mr. Trump’s polarizing decision. While those in some areas of the country were cheered by the executive order, the reaction was markedly different for many in New York. References to the Statue of Liberty and its famous inscription became a rallying cry.”
All across the country, protests of a similar nature arose.
The immigrant-advocacy groups Make the Road New York and the New York Immigration Coalition first spread the word of the protest on social media. At first it looked like it would be a small crowd, but throughout the day the drama grew and grew.
One of the two Iraqi refugees who were detained, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, was released. As reporters and protestors gathered around him, he said, “This is the humanity, this is the soul of America. This is what pushed me to move, leave my country and come here.”
At around 3 pm, Micheal Moore posted on Twitter: “Everybody in NYC area — head to JFK Terminal 4 NOW! Big anti-Trump protest forming out of nowhere!”
It was after this that people really began pouring in. CNN and other cable networks reported from the protest live, as photos splattered across all outlets of social media.
Hundreds of people crowded along the parking apron and across the three floors of parking lots that overlook the terminal, by sundown.
The NYT reports, “Passengers with baggage-laden carts squeezed in and around knots of people as they headed to and from the terminal. One group of four people, apparently with a flight to catch, simply abandoned their cart in the parking lot and rolled their bags to the unoccupied end of the terminal. Cabdrivers joined in, with their union, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, calling for an hour-long work stoppage for drivers serving the airport during the height of the protest. There were moments of tension.
In the evening, people complained on social media that they were being prevented from boarding the AirTrain, the link from the subway to the airport. Photos circulated of police officers standing in front of the turnstiles.”
On Twitter, the Port Authority posted, “AirTrain JFK controls in place for public safety, due to crowding conditions.”
Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo steeped in as tempers rose to a fever pitch at an AirTrain station. Around 8pm, in a news release, Cuomo said, “The people of New York will have their voices heard.”
However, even after the announcement, the police would not let people onto the AirTrain, so they could attend the protest.
By Hannah Hayes