Hundreds of protesters at Fresno Yosemite International Airport joined thousands of others across the nation Sunday to protest President Donald Trump’s immigration order.
A large crowd of protesters gathered about 5 p.m. at Peach and McKinley avenues, waving signs and chanting in support of immigrants and in opposition to the president’s order banning immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
The protesters waved a variety of signs, including “Refugees make America,” “No Ban, No Wall,” and “Impeach Trump.”
The crowd then marched to outside the main terminal at the airport, where they spilled into all but one lane of traffic in front of the terminal.
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Protest organizer Rebecca Peerson said she posted the event on Facebook without thinking that it would attract that many people. The outcome was far larger than she expected.
“This is what America is,” Peerson said. “What you’re seeing right now, this is America.”
I want people to see that what is happening is not the values that our country was founded on.
Protest organizer Rebecca Peerson
Aware that Trump probably doesn’t care about a protest in Fresno, Peerson said what matters is the people at the protest. She said the world is watching America right now. Trump’s actions, she said, do not represent what America is.
“I want people to see that what is happening is not the values that our country was founded on,” Peerson said.
She said people should remember that America was founded by people who were trying to escape persecution. America is being hypocritical for trying to push away the kinds of people this nation was founded by, she said.
Peerson, a Fleet Marine Forces corpsman who served in Iraq, said she was marching to stand up for the Iraqi people who helped her during her deployment.
“When an Iraqi person says they are going to help America, they are threatened by death,” she said. Peerson said she is grateful for the people of that country who risked their lives for her safety.
Mark McAfee, CEO of Organic Pastures, a producer of raw milk, said he is being personally affected by Trump’s travel ban. Another of his companies, All-Pro Drilling near Fresno, is doing business with a man who went back to Iran to visit family and now can’t get back to the U.S. to settle business affairs.
“There’s going to be employees that will have a hard time getting their paychecks made,” McAfee said. “This is very real for me.”
McAfee said he heard what Trump promised Valley farmers during last year’s presidential campaign. What Trump is doing now isn’t helping farmers, he added.
“I have to speak up,” he said.
Maraika Kuipers, a Fresno State student, said she was protesting not only for those not being allowed into the U.S., but for all human rights. She quoted civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.”
Kuipers said she thinks the ban is a direct threat to Muslims and not a method of protection like Trump claims.
The 20-year-old student said the president’s actions have pushed her to want to become a lawyer to try to prevent such things from happening.
Reza Nekumanesh, executive director of the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno, said he, too, doesn’t believe this is a ban against terrorism. “If this was a ban against terrorism, we would have seen a ban on Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Nekumanesh said he was at the protest not just because he is a Muslim, but to stand up for people of all backgrounds.
Andy Levine, executive director of the interfaith group Faith in Community, said Trump’s executive order puts into action his campaign pledge to ban Muslims.
“Our elected officials have a moral responsibility to stand up and defend people,” Levine said.