Hundreds of protesters gathered Sunday afternoon at Kansas City International Airport to decry President Donald Trump’s executive order barring citizens of seven Muslim nations from entering the United States.
The protest began at about 2 p.m. and was expected to last until at least 5:30 p.m. at Terminal C. Organizers said they were looking to “protest the blatantly unconstitutional (and horrifically unethical) executive order by President Trump.”
The crowd was growing quickly by midafternoon as protesters chanted: “Trump, you clown! You build the wall, we’ll tear it down!” They cheered as passing drivers honked their horns in a show of support.
The protest was peaceful and was not disrupting airport operations, a spokesman said. The size of the crowd was estimated to be 400 to 500 at about 3:30, an airport official said.
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“We came here to protest the ban on immigrants and refugees from Muslim majority countries,” said Amii Castle of Lawrence. “We think that’s wrong. Any sort of religious test for people to come to the United States is wholly undemocratic and un-American.”
Castle was joined by her daughter Sabrina, also from Lawrence: “I came because I believe the way Donald Trump is treating immigrants and refugees is unfair and disgusting.”
Thad Krasnesky of Lansing held up a sign written in Arabic that said, “They came for the Muslims, but I was not a Muslim so I did nothing.”
“I feel that the administration has confused security with discriminatory, non-constitutional practices,” said Krasnesky, who has been in the U.S. Army for 20 years, done five combat tours and speaks Arabic fluently. “I hope what this does is demonstrate through number and message that there are more people that are opposed to a blanket unconstitutional action than are willing to stand silently by while people violate what our country stands for.”
Making decisions based on fear is always a bad idea, he said. He finds it hard to understand why someone would base something like national security on emotion rather than logic.
“I support the need for security, but this is not the way to do it,” he said.
Kansas City Mayor Sly James arrived home from a trip to Washington while the protest was underway. He offered his support and thanked the demonstrators for acting peacefully.
“I’m very proud of you for standing up for what we believe in, because at this point in time it’s not about Donald Trump, it’s about our character. We decide who we want to be. We decide about the country we want to live in. We decide who we welcome. This city will always welcome people regardless of who they are. Thank you for standing up for what you believe in. I believe in it, too.”
Trump signed the order Friday, leading to chaos as government agencies scrambled to implement the policy, which bars refugees and individuals from seven predominately Muslim nations.
“To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting,” Trump said in a statement released Sunday afternoon. “This is not about religion — this is about terror and keeping our country safe.”
Two federal courts ruled late Saturday against part of the order. A federal court in Brooklyn granted a nationwide stay preventing the government from deporting people who arrived with valid U.S. visas.
A second court in Virginia issued a temporary restraining order preventing the deportation of permanent U.S. residents who arrived at Dulles International Airport outside Washington. The judge also ruled that the detained passengers must be given access to an attorney.
Chaos and outrage grew Sunday, with travelers detained at airports, panicked families searching for relatives and protesters registering opposition to the sweeping measure that was blocked by several federal courts.
Attorneys struggled to determine how many people had been affected so far by the rules, which Trump said Saturday were “working out very nicely.”
But critics described widespread confusion, with an untold number of travelers being held in legal limbo because of ill-defined procedures. Some lawyers manned tables at New York’s Kennedy Airport to offer help to families with detained relatives.
“We just simply don’t know how many people there are and where they are,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.
Advocates for travelers say the chaos is likely to continue. The executive director of National Immigration Law Center, Marielena Hincapie, said “this is just the beginning.”
“We’re really in a crisis mode, a constitutional crisis mode in our country, and we’re going to need everyone,” she said. “This is definitely one of those all-hands-on-deck moments.”
Meanwhile, protests continued Sunday, including one in suburban Chicago organized by Jewish groups to show support for Muslims. Other demonstrations were planned for Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C., Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport and Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
At the main Dallas-Fort Worth airport, an estimated 200 people held signs and chanted, “Let them go!” They awaited word on nine people detained at the airport, most of them Iranian, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
In Kansas City, the ban has created tense moments of uncertainty, leaving refugees frustrated.
At KCI Sunday, Jacqueline Villamar of Lawrence, said she believes every life is a human life — not an alien. She was at the protest to support Muslims, saying Trump’s order is wrong.
“That’s not what this country is about — that type of hate that is not OK,” said Villamar, who is a daughter of an immigrant. “If we don’t stand for what is right now, who’s to say what will happen to everyone in the future?”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.