Pagans join Saturday protests at airports nationwide

Cara Schulz —  January 31, 2017 — 18 Comments

UNITED STATES — On Friday, President Trump signed an Executive Order, which put a 120 day freeze on immigration from 7 countries. While the Department of Homeland Security initially interpreted the Executive Order as not applicable to persons from those 7 countries who already possessed a Green Card or a temporary VISA, the White House quickly clarified they, too, were included in the travel ban.

Word quickly spread that families had been detained at airports. Spouses were reportedly taken off planes and employees stranded overseas while on business trips.

On Friday evening, hundreds of pro bono attorneys headed to airports to seek the release of persons detained due to enforcement of the new Executive Order. By Saturday morning, the ACLU had received almost $20 million in online donations, which far exceeds the average $4 million that the organization receives in an entire year. Then, by Saturday afternoon, spontaneous protests were breaking out across the nation. The Wild Hunt spoke with several Pagans who took part in the weekend protests.

District of Columbia

David Salisbury had looked for a protest to attend on Friday night, but wasn’t able to find one. Then he searched Facebook Events and noticed a rally at The White House scheduled for Saturday afternoon and he joined in. The rally lasted for an hour and then turned into a march.

[Courtesy D. Salisbury]

[Courtesy D. Salisbury]

TWH: Why did you go?

David Salisbury: This just seems like a very common sense thing for decent people to speak out about. As a lover of American history, I find any attempt to ostracize and banish ethnic and religious minorities deeply troubling. History’s shown us that it never ends well, and it never will. I’m also learning more about families who are separated from each other or trapped in situations of terror and it’s all so heartbreaking.

TWH: What did you experience while there?

David Salisbury: The volume of people who showed up was very impressive. For many thousands to come out for something organized so quickly, that was exciting to see. I also noticed that despite the dreadful reasons we were there for, people seemed to be in good spirits, like we were all just excited to see such a big show of solidarity in our city.

*    *    *

Minneapolis/St Paul

On Saturday, Tasha Rose received a message from a friend asking if she wanted to go to the protest. Tasha said 15 minutes later they were on their way to the Minneapolis/Paul International Airport with markers and poster board in hand.

[Courtesy T. Rose]

[Courtesy T. Rose]

TWH: Why did you go?

Tasha Rose: I went because the values I have and the values that this nation has do not have room for religious bigotry or irrational and reactionary behavior based on events that happened 15 years ago. There is no room for racism or white supremacy. There is, however, room for families fleeing violence.

TWH: What did you experience while there?

Tasha Rose: It was pretty light-hearted and happy as we welcomed international arrivals. No protesters were angry or rude. We did experience some people arriving who were not happy we were there, but there were more arrivals who started chanting with us or giving up thumbs up or other encouragement. It was pretty annoying when the person organizing told us that the police asked us to not chant. Protest, but don’t chant. People got a little annoyed at the “free speech zone” threats. At the end we were told we had 15 minutes of allowed time left. Nancy and I left at that point. Overall I was glad to have gone. It was spontaneous and there was no permit and the organizer was new at it so there wasn’t a huge turn out, but people turned out. That was the important part.

*    *    *

Elysia Gallo heard about Saturday’s protest at the Minneapolis/St Paul International Airport through a post on Facebook from the group Stand Up Minnesota.

Elysia Gallo (far left) at Minneapolis Airport protest [Photo Credit: Laura Eash]

Elysia Gallo (far left) at Minneapolis Airport protest [Photo Credit: Laura Eash]

TWH: Why did you go?

Elysia Gallo: Big picture: because I believe this presidential order is simply unconstitutional. In addition, it was poorly thought out and executed, with no language on exceptions for people who are permanent residents, students, or on other types of work or study visas. A blanket ban like this accomplishes nothing but chaos, to borrow a term from Sen. Klobuchar.

On a more personal level, I strongly support immigrants. I’ve volunteered for the International Institute of Minnesota since I was a child and was raised valuing cultures different from my own. My father was a refugee immigrant, and my husband was an immigrant. Both are citizens now, and neither is Muslim, so my family is not personally threatened, but thousands of Minnesota families are. All day on Facebook I saw stories of friends and friends of friends who were directly impacted, stranded, or separated. This is not what America is about. Although I do not believe Trump’s administration will be swayed by popular opinion or protests in the least, I still couldn’t sit idly by and condone the executive action with my silence.

TWH: What did you experience while there?

Elysia Gallo: I got to the protest late, but even after I arrived more and more people joined us. We were told not to block the walkway or we’d be removed. Many people held signs. There was some chanting and some singing. I think passengers disembarking were more alarmed by the chanting (it can be jarring and one doesn’t know if one is safe or not), but while singing many passengers sang along as they exited or gave us the thumbs up. The gathering did not have a permit, and the organizer negotiated with an airport security officer that we could be there for one hour before we needed to move to the “designated free speech zone.” Therefore, at the end of the hour, we peacefully left en masse. I did see on Facebook, however, that more latecomers arrived after we left and took up the same position and continued the efforts.

One final comment, the organizers had said several international flights were landing in that time frame on Facebook – they said London, Frankfurt, Mexico, and Liberia. However, the Star Tribune reported that the only international arrival to the terminal at this time was a flight from Cancun! If that’s the case, then I wish the organizers had been more on the ball. We also are not or were not aware whether there were any detentions at our airport, unlike many of the other protesting airports. So was it worth it? I think just to take a stand against fascism, yes. But the impact was definitely lessened.

*    *    *

Courtney Weber was in Minneapolis due to a speaking engagement and was scheduled to fly back home on Sunday. She saw a friend post on Facebook about protests at the Minneapolis airport and decided to go to the airport early so she could take part before her flight left.

TWH: Why did you go?

Courtney Weber-Hoover: I am sickened and saddened by the news of refugees, green card-holding citizens, and others turned away at the border. I’m reading about researchers sent back, Syrian families refused entry after being approved. My Ancestors were immigrants. I have Muslim friends and colleagues. This ban is against the principals of Love and Trust that I, as a Witch, hold dear.

TWH: What did you experience while there?

Courtney Weber-Hoover: It was peaceful, but it was serious. When I was on the elevator, a man asked me if I were heading to the protest. I said yes. He said, “Thank you. This is my wife–she is Iranian. She is a legal citizen and a flight attendant. She is having trouble working right now.” His wife said, “I can’t take international work at the moment.” She was in tears and then, so was I.

*    *    *

San Francisco

Christina Gargiullo’s partner heard about the protest forming at the San Francisco airport on Indivisible East Bay Facebook page. She attended rallies on both Saturday and Sunday.

[Courtesy C. Gargiullo]

[Courtesy C. Gargiullo]

TWH: Why did you go?

Christine Gargiullo: I’m an interfaith chaplain, and I spent my teenage years as a member of a minority religion in the South. I’m passionate about protecting religious freedoms in general and fighting Islamaphobia in particular.  Islam is as peaceful a religion as Christianity–which is to say they are the 1st and 2nd largest religions among humans in the world.  Humans have the capacity for cruelty and bloody conflict and, I have faith, far greater capacity for peace and compassion. I find it deplorable and hypocritical to judge the Muslim 23% of the world’s population by the actions of a sect of extremists. The racist component cannot be overlooked either: most Muslims are people of color.

If that weren’t enough–and it is–I know that if we allow explicit religious prejudice to become law in this country, in any form, then all minority religious communities are at risk. I am one of many concerned by the Nazi echoes in Trump’s campaign talk about keeping a government registry of a specific minority religion scapegoated as a public safety threat in a time of sociopolitical unrest.

It’s not abstract for me. I’ve got a coworker and friend from one of the banned countries, and I spent some time on the weekend supporting her through her fear for her aging parents overseas–who are in danger of losing their green cards & being separated from the rest of the family indefinitely if the ban is not lifted.

TWH: What did you experience while there?

Christine Gargiullo: The protest honestly started for me while I was BART’ing on the way over with my partner and a fellow clergy member of Come As You Are Coven, with people checking on each other in the train, sharing Lawyer’s Guild phone numbers in case of detention, and sharing stories of anger, fear, and hope. Saturday we were at the airport for nine hours, and the energy was amazing and sustained the whole time. I kept an eye on the police throughout the day and night, and I’m pleased to report that they appeared ready for action should things get ugly but stayed back, relaxed and chatting, while we demonstrated peacefully.

Around 6 pm, people started circulating food among the crowd–first random things that individuals had brought, then stacks of pizzas and crates of granola bars and water bottles that I’m told were donated by people too distant to protest themselves. The atmosphere was one of fierce determination and community. I found out later that a swell of cheering around 9:30 pm indicated the announcement of the first San Francisco detainee released. Announcements via People’s Mike didn’t carry reliably to the back of the crowd and, at the time, my little crew only caught that all detainees in Chicago had been released.

When we left at 1:30 pm in the morning the protest was still going strong, with some people pulling out pillows to bunk down, and most others rocking out with protest songs alongside an honest-to-Goddess brass band.

After some good sleep and a little preparation, I returned on Sunday late afternoon with my sister, my violin, and lyrics handouts for “We Shall Overcome” and “This Land Is Our Land.”  The acoustics were bad, so I had limited immediate feedback, but my sister was on the other side of the terminal while I was playing. She says she could hear the crowd singing with me from over there.  At one point a drummer and a tamborine player joined me. When I put the violin down the chanting started again, loud, and fierce. I’m fortunate to have been there when we got news that the fifth and final detainee at our airport had been released. The crowd erupted in elated cheers. I know the fight is just beginning–and also I’m proud and honored to have been part of this small victory.

*    *    *

There has been confusion, much of it caused by conflicting statements from White House officials, on how the Executive Order is currently being interpreted. The order bars the entry of any refugee who is awaiting resettlement in the U.S. for the next 120 days. It also bans persons from 7 countries (Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen) from entering the U.S.

On Saturday, this was enforced on persons who are permanent residents of the U.S., also known as green card holders. By Sunday, after judges in four U.S. cities ruled against detaining permanent residents at airports and ordered their immediate release, the White House appeared to be changing its stance. Rince Preibus, on Meet the Press, said the order wouldn’t affect permanent residents going forward.  And, on Sunday evening, the Department of Homeland Security said all permanent residents would be allowed immediate entry to the U.S., except in cases where information suggested that a specific person was a national security threat.

However, on Monday, the president fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who had previously stated that she would not enforce the executive order on immigration. More legal challenges to the order are expected to be filed and due to the complex nature of presidential authority on immigration law, those challenges are expected to be taken up by the Supreme Court of The United States.

Cara Schulz

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Cara Schulz is a journalist and author living in Minnesota with her husband and cat. She has previously written for PAGAN+politics, PNC-Minnesota, and Patheos. Her work has appeared in several books by Bibliotheca Alexandrina and she's the author of Martinis & Marshmallows: A Field Guide to Luxury Tent Camping and (Almost) Foolproof Mead Making. She loves red wine, camping, and has no tattoos.
  • On speaking out …

    ‘First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.
    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.
    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
    … Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)

    Different time … same fight.

  • Tauri1

    “The one who does not remember history is bound to live it again” George Santayana

    As someone who lived through the Nixon years it seems to me it’s “deja vu” all over again.

  • People are scared. I get that.

    I ask you to remember that this is not new. Nor is it Republican. Remember President Wilson and the Sedition Act. Remember President Clinton going after militia groups. While we’re at it, remember Clinton going after illegal aliens. Remember President Obama targeting conservative groups.

    “Thou shalt not dissent” is a sure mark of tyranny no matter who is in power.

    The answer is not making sure your guy is “in charge.” Trump wouldn’t be President if not for Obama. And Obama wouldn’t have been President without Bush the Younger. Bush the Younger wouldn’t have been President without Clinton. And so on and so on…

    If you think government abuses it’s power, than take away the power. If you can’t trust your worst enemy with government power, then you can’t trust your best friend either.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      …The answer is not making sure your guy is “in charge.”…That is how the political system works. Anyone who doesn’t like it is obliged to offer an effective, realistic alternative.

      • ❝That is how the political system works.❞

        Pardon, but it’s how a political system works. A political system that depends on you choosing one or the other in order to perpetuate itself.

        But never asking questions. Questions lead to dissent and dissent is not allowed. Dissent must not be allowed.

        Dissent must be suppressed.

        Government knows what’s best for you. Or at least the correct party knows what’s best for you. Mostly. And you might even get a bone thrown your way if you speak on cue.

        I might have forgotten the sarcasm tags in there somewhere.

        My point is, there’s no point in attacking the Republicans if the Democrats treat you as an abused lover. They’ll never give you what you want unless it benefits them much more than it benefits you. And it mostly benefits the Democrat elites if there are plenty of victims to go around.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          As a retiree on Social Security and Medicare I fully expect materially worse treatment from Republicans than I got from Democrats. The two are simply not commensurate, and to put them on an equal footing is a victory of theory over reality.Our political system, governing 300 million people, is a product of evolution. It wasn’t planned as a choice between the lesser of two evils. We’ve seen efforts to nudge it, from the right and from the left, into a different direction (when I was younger I joined in such efforts) and they wound up in the dustbin of history. Clear statements of principle to the contrary simply evoke the experienced skepticism of an old man who spent his twenties in the Sixties.

          • And yet with Obamacare costs have gone up and availability has gone down. That doesn’t even address issues such as the growing surveillance state, the militarization of police, the loss of free speech, the failure of public education, or any of a couple of dozen others.

            I do not trust in the wisdom of government.

            I agree that Trump is not to be trusted. But I don’t think Obama should have been trusted.

            Pretty much for the same reasons.

          • Tauri1

            The costs of healthcare have gone up not just for Obamacare but for all health insurance. When I was working (I’m now retired), my healthcare insurance costs went up every year.

            Obamacare’s premise was that everyone could have health care but *only if* healthy YOUNG adults were in the system to offset the costs that would be incurred by insuring OLDER sicker adults. Because the “penalty” wasn’t stringent enough, and because everyone freaked over even having to pay a “penalty”, the sick folks got Obamacare and the young healthy adults didn’t. Thus the cost of insurance went up when the insurance companies couldn’t cover the cost of insurance adults with pre-existing chronic conditions.

            Insurance is nothing more than another business whose basic “goal” is profit for its stockholders, just like every other business. There are a few health insurance companies (Blue Cross/Blue Shield of TN for example) which are “mutual” insurance companies, that is, they are owned by the people who are insured, but those are few and far between.

            For a good understanding of how insurance works, please see the Wikipedia article on it. Believe it or not, it really is a good article.

            I offer this as someone who worked for four years in an insurance company in the actuarial department. No, I am not an actuary, nor do I play one on TV. 🙂

          • One thing that led to the widespread adoption of insurance was a wage freeze during WWII. Employers couldn’t offer more money so they offered more benefits. This expanded during the 50s and 60s and then got very confusing with the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid.

            One unforeseen result was that consumers could no longer see what the actual price of medical was. Price information is how a market regulates itself. Not surprisingly, as time went on the medicine not covered by insurance or government programs (cosmetic surgery, Lasik, etc) went down in price while the really important stuff (dialysis, MRI) went up in price. It’s easy to spend money when it’s not yours, and it’s nearly impossible to keep costs down when everyone thinks it’s a right.

            And that is when the third order functions start to screw the system. Demands for high cost procedures rise and politicos start screaming to contain costs. The ones actually providing the service are caught between the devil and the deep blue see. Insurance companies face higher regulatory hurdles so everyone can have the services.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            You and I are on the same wavelength for more of these issues than you might think. Tauri1 talked about Obamacare. The government is only as wise as its people and its Constitution, and the wisdom of the Electoral College is looking suspect.

          • There is at least one major area where we differ. You see a government solution as a Good Thing. I see it as an absolute last resort to be replaced as soon as possible.

            I do thank you for your courtesy in replying to me and for debating me on polite terms. I know that many readers here are uncomfortable with debate when it includes a trouble making libertarian.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Again, we are closer than you think. I would be delighted if problems the government addresses could be resolved by means less coercive and bureaucratic. But I find that wildly unrealistic, and regard government as the second-best, realistic approach.Part of this, which you probably don’t share, is my religious conviction that a society with the aggregate wealth of ours owes the most vulnerable a functioning safety net, and I don’t see any alternative to government there, though I give all honor to private and church charities.I’ve always thought that ideas that can’t be defended on their own merits, without mudslinging, probably haven’t been thought through enough. Libertarianism has its charms in such areas as the Bill of Rights and personal sovereignty over what I do with and put into my body.

          • I might have agreed with you with you once.

            But then they mandated low flow toilets that take more more flushes and more water to clear the bowl…

            Part of Christianity that “stuck” on me was the belief that while charity was good, mandated charity was not. If I choose to give, that is one thing. If someone demands I give, it’s hard to see that as anything except extortion.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            You’ve picked some features that annoy or offend you. I could pick some I feel the opposite about, such as the WIC program, the PBS News Hour and coverage of pre-existing conditions. So it goes.

          • This started because people were blaming the incoming Republican administration. My point was that Democrats get a pass for the same behavior that Republicans don’t.

            I could pick and choose the examples, but the Democrat leadership are not saints, they aren’t nobly looking out for the little guy, and if Republicans abuse their power so do Democrats.

            At it’s core government is backed by force, “You will comply. Or else.” That power corrupts anyone. And as long as people think that the government solution is a good one and acceptable, the government solution will be chosen because people believe they don’t have to be responsible for the consequences.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I think we’ve started to repeat ourselves.BTW, phrases like “the Democrat leadership,” rather than Democratic, are usually the sign of a Republican talking smack and not to be taken seriously. Not necessarily applicable here, just a heads-up.

          • You trust in the institution, I trust in the individual.

            The frustrated individual who says “I can do better than that! and tries like blazes to do that. Mostly they fail, but the ones who succeed push humanity forward.

            BTW, I wouldn’t call them Democrat if they were democratic.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            If you don’t want to be taken seriously, that’s your call.