By Ryan Grewal, city editor
Tens of thousands of demonstrators packed into Copley Square on Sunday afternoon to denounce President Donald J. Trump’s executive order temporarily banning refugees and immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations in the Middle East and Africa.
Trump signed the order Friday afternoon banning entry to the United States for all immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Sunday’s demonstration, organized by the Massachusetts branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations, follows spontaneous protests on Saturday against the Muslim immigration ban at airports across the country, including Logan International Airport in Boston.
Caroline Abernethy, a teacher at the Epiphany School in Dorchester, was attending the Sunday service at Trinity Church just before the protest began. Stepping out of church to a crowd spilling out of Copley Square, Abernethy said she and others at the service felt a sense of obligation to enact change in response to Trump’s actions.
“We all know where we stand in [church],” Abernethy said. “It’s mostly that we need to stand up and deliver.”
Around 1 p.m., protesters filled Copley Square from the Boston Public Library to the steps of Trinity Church, where local advocates, religious leaders and politicians – including Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) – addressed the crowd. City officials closed down portions of Boylston Street, Dartmouth Street and St. James Avenue for hours Sunday afternoon to accommodate the protest.
Many in the square showed their support for those affected by the executive order with signs in English and Arabic, including messages that read “No human being is illegal,” “Using fear to divide us = terrorism” and “Where is the love?”
Numerous prominent figures in Massachusetts Democratic politics were present, including Walsh and his opponent in the mayoral race, City Councilor Tito Jackson (D-7). However, the lively crowd noticed one glaring snub.
“Where is the governor? Where is the governor?” many protesters chanted, drawing attention to the absence of Governor Charlie Baker.
Baker, a Republican, released a statement opposing the ban, according to The Boston Globe.
“Governor Baker opposes applying religious tests to the refugee system and believes that focusing on countries’ predominant religions will not make the U.S. any safer,” Brendan Moss, Baker’s spokesperson, said in an e-mail to The Globe.
Walsh, in a speech wrought with empathy and anger, asked protesters to tell the people around them that they love each other before bitterly denouncing the president’s executive order.
“Discrimination against specific immigrants is wrong, it’s unconstitutional and it’s not who we are,” Walsh said. “Boston was built by immigrants and minorities.”
Many in the crowd responded affectionately to their mayor, a vocal critic of Trump, who joined demonstrators the previous night at Logan Airport.
“Run for governor,” some in the crowd chanted as Walsh spoke.
Warren struck a tone of defiant outrage over Trump’s divisive rhetoric and actions when she addressed the crowd.
“So from right here in Boston, let’s say to people all across Massachusetts, all across this country and all around this world: We will not turn our backs on refugees and immigrants,” Warren said. “We will not be divided by Donald Trump’s hateful divisions. We will not.”
Many in the crowd showed marked disgust toward Trump’s actions and affirmed their commitment to resist his White House.
“No collaboration with this administration,” the crowd chanted.
Michael Stepner, a graduate student studying economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said he attended the protest in Copley Square to stand with other economists rejecting Trump’s economic arguments against immigration.
“Bringing people to America is good for them and it’s good for us, but it’s more than that,” Stepner said. “It’s also right.”
Photo by Ryan Grewal