Jacksonville, FL – Over 300 people gathered outside the Duval County Courthouse on Jan. 31 to call for the repeal of President Donald Trump's anti-Muslim refugee ban.
Called “No Human is Illegal,” the event was called by Jacksonville Progressive Coalition (JPC), a community activist organization most known for its successful campaign to remove Angela Corey, Jacksonville's racist former state attorney, from office
The protest brought together a diverse crowd of working people, college and high school students, and community activists. Families from Jacksonville's sizable Arab American community attended and spoke out against the ban. Organizers and advocates behind the campaign to extend the city's Human Rights Ordinance to protect the LGBTQ community came out in force, as did union workers from the Teamsters, the Communications Workers of America, and the North Florida Central Labor Council. Several Black liberation movement activists and groups also attended in support of refugees and Muslims.
On Jan. 26, Trump issued an executive order blocking refugees and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries – Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia – from entering the U.S. The order sparked a massive wave of protests in cities across the country, just days after the giant women's march in Washington D.C. protesting Trump's inauguration. In the face of mounting public pressure, a federal judge halted the refugee ban. A federal appeals court is scheduled to rule on the legality of Trump's order in the coming days.
Building resistance to Trump
The crowd gathered outside the courthouse in the early evening, chanting, “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here,” and “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA.” Community activists and speakers from over a dozen organizations denounced Trump's attacks on Muslims and immigrants and called for mass resistance to the president's agenda.
“If you remember, Trump's first speech was an attack on Mexicans,” said Wells Todd, an organizer in the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition. “From out the gate, this man was attacking minorities.”
Other speakers called for continued protests against Trump's agenda and spoke on the need for a mass resistance movement.
“We need to build a rebellion against the 1%, and rest assured, Donald Trump represents that 1%,” said Dave Schneider, a rank-and-file Teamster. “In this country, we have a democracy for the rich, which is a dictatorship for the rest of us. I say let's turn the tables of them, because there's a heck of a lot more working people than there are rich people in this country.”
After hearing from over a dozen speakers, the crowd marched to city hall and the nearby federal courthouse building.
The people shut down violent Trump supporter
Despite trolling on social media and vague threats online, only three counter-protesters showed up at the rally. One Trump supporter, dressed in a 'Blue Lives Matter' vest, attempted to jump in front of the crowd with a giant Trump-Pence campaign sign. Several organizers recognized him from a #BlackLivesMatter in Jacksonville several months before, which he tried to verbally and physically disrupt.
When protesters moved in front of the single Trump provocateur to block out his sign, the man became enraged and forcefully shoved two people. In response, several protesters grabbed the Trump-Pence sign, crushed its wooden support frame, and kicked him out of the rally.
The significance of the refugee ban on the First Coast
Although Trump's ban reportedly did not affect anyone flying in at Jacksonville International Airport, the fight against anti-Arab racism and anti-Muslim bigotry has special significance on Florida's First Coast. Jacksonville has the tenth-largest Arab population (8000) of all U.S. cities, as well as the fifth-largest Syrian American population (1100). The city is also home to nearly 10,000 Muslims, many of Eastern European or southeast Asian descent.
In 2015, three Jacksonville relief agencies agreed to take in as many as 2000 refugees per year from Syria and other parts of the Middle East. However, Mayor Lenny Curry, a longtime Trump supporter and Islamophobe, vocally backed the refugee ban, putting the status of any future refugees arriving in Jacksonville up in the air.