Hundreds gather in Dayton to protest immigration order

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Caption
This gathering — organized by German immigrant Frank Goetzke of Yellow Springs — is one of two protests planned today in downtown Dayton.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Several hundred people rallied outside of Republican Congressman Mike Turner’s downtown Dayton office Sunday afternoon to protest President Donald Trump’s executive order that temporarily bars citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from traveling to the U.S.

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Those at the rally held signs with slogans such as “Refugees Welcome” and “No ban, No fear, let freedom ring.”

President Trump on Sunday issued a statement saying the ban is not about religion, but is about terror and keeping the country safe.

Speakers at the event included organizers and people impacted by the temporary ban, as well as actor, comedian and Yellow Springs resident Dave Chappelle.

Chappelle addressed the crowd, in hopes that the president was listening, saying, “We are all here because what you are doing does not seem right. … I support refugees, I support immigrants, and I love my friends and neighbors.”

RELATED: Dave Chappelle speaks in Dayton against Trump’s travel ban

Mohamed Al-Hamdani, one of the speakers, said the past few days had been “difficult” and “emotional.”

“Some of us really love this country and work really hard for this country, and we know, sometimes, it doesn’t always give back. And that’s all right,” he said.

Al-Hamdani, whose family came to America in the early ’90s to escape Saddam Hussein’s regime, said that when the executive order was signed, he looked at his family with the same look his mother gave him as a child when they left Iraq, one of seven countries affected by the ban.

“It was a look of fear, anxiousness, the unknown and worry. But there was also a part in her look that was hopeful,” he recalled.

His story isn’t unlike others who attended the rally. Hasan Abdul-Karim, a senior at Wright State University, said he was surprised to see the massive crowd gather outside of Turner’s office at 120 W. Third St.

Still, Abdul-Karim, who has family in Lebanon, is afraid that the ban could impact him and his family if the list of countries grow beyond those already included.

“Who know’s if they’re going to expand that list?” Abdul-Karim asked. “That’s where my concern comes in.”

RELATED: Dayton police to adjust to Trump’s immigration orders

Awad Halabi, an associate professor at Wright State, was protesting an executive order that he said would have kept him from ending up where he is today.

“For them to shut the doors is against our own history,” said Halabi, who coordinates the Middle Eastern and Islamic studies programs at WSU.

Halabi, the son of refugees, emigrated to Canada from the area of the West Bank in 1971 before he eventually came to work at Wright State in 2005. Halabi’s parents fled Jerusalem for the West Bank in 1948 during the Arab-Israeli war.

“It’s something other people don’t realize,” Halabi said. “You don’t choose this. You don’t choose to be a refugee.”

Halabi said he is one of many whose parents fled war torn parts of the world to find refuge in other countries. With the president’s recent executive order, some are starting to hear the stories of people who they never knew were refugees, Halabi said.

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“It doesn’t come up frequently, but I think once people start talking about it and saying my parents were refugees too, it will change their thinking,” Halabi said.

The refugee ban is something Halabi and others consider “insulting and visceral.” It’s taken as an attack on people who just wanted to make a better life for their families, he said.

“I wouldn’t have had the education or opportunities if my parents hadn’t taken that chance,” Halabi said.

Now, Halabi said, he is trying to protect the chance his parents gave him when they left so he can make an even better life for his two kids. It’s why he said he was out protesting on Sunday.

“So, I’m here with my sign that says ‘I stand with these two cuties,’” he said of his son and daughter.

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