By Sheila Anne Feeney, Ivan Pereira & amNY Staff
Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in downtown Manhattan Sunday afternoon, the mayor’s office said, two days after President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning non-U.S. citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries entry into the United States. Demonstrators rallied in the park before marching north to Foley Square.
The rally featured chants from demonstrators including “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here,” “Build a wall, we’ll tear it down,” and “Impeach, impeach, impeach.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio, Rep. Nydia Velázquez, Sen. Chuck Schumer, Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand were among the local politicians in attendance.
“One example we have to remind Donald Trump is the 900 Muslim officers that protect the city of New York,” de Blasio said.
De Blasio revealed that 17 people are being held at John F. Kennedy International Airport with no charge. “That is not acceptable in the United States of America,” he said.
Leading the crowd in a chant of “A people united will never be defeated,” Schumer called Trump’s executive order on refugees “nasty.”
“They’re bad for America, they’re bad for humanity, they’re bad for national security,” and they stand against “everything that is American,” Schumer said.
Schumer noted that there were 42 American citizens or green card holders being held at airports nationwide due to the order
“We’ve made progress on 42. We have to make progress for thousands and tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands more,” he told the crowd.
Urging protesters to fight for what they believe is right, Gillibrand said Trump’s executive order was a “mark of shame for this country.”
“It goes against everything that we, as New Yorkers, stand for,” she added. “For Trump to slam that door [on refugees] means that we have to fight. We have to stand strong, we have to say no, and we must not give in.”
Maloney told protesters that “We will either tear up this ban or tear up everything the Statue of Liberty stands for.”
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) also took to the podium at the rally, firing up the crowd. “We must let everyone know if you assault the dignity of some, you assault the dignity of all,” he said.
Masoud Mortazavi, 27, of Crown Heights, marched to Foley Square from Battery Park with his wife, both who are attorneys. Mortazavi’s parents are Iranian immigrants.
“I was a combination of sadness and anger,” he said, reflecting on his reaction to Trump’s executive order. “To be honest, this won’t be the last time we will be marching.”
Mortazavi did feel optimistic when it came to the march and the message behind the demonstration.
“U.S. citizens aren’t asleep,” he said. “This is a positive force. This is beautiful.”
Aya Ogawa, a Bed-Stuy resident and immigrant from Japan, brought her 7-year-old son Kai Chen to the rally.
“We’re just outraged by Trump’s ban on Muslims and all his general policies,” she said. “I just want [my children] to feel they have power and they have to stand up for themselves and others.”
Ogawa’s husband, Irwin Chen, said the protest is “a way of teaching civics to kids.”
Samar Elhitti, 37, a Fort Greene resident from Lebanon, said he was able to relate to the detainees situation.
“I was in the same shoes last year that these people are in now,” he said.
Astoria resident M.D. Alauddin, 32, co-owner of a food cart stationed at the protest, said he was proud to see people demonstrating.
“I need to help my people, but after five minutes I am going to join them,” Alauddin said.
Susan Brannan, 54, of Morningside Heights, also attended the Women’s March on Washington. Brannan said Trump’s behavior is “anathema to the founders’ ideas of what this country should be — which is a melting pot.”
“It’s becoming clear: This is what we do now,” she said.
The protest began at 2 p.m. on Sunday, and was co-sponsored by multiple local organizations, including the New York Immigration Coalition and Make the Road New York. Organizers planned to rally in Battery Park, then lead protesters in a march to the Manhattan offices of Customs and Border Protection, according to a news release from the New York Immigration Coalition.
Protesters also gathered Saturday and Sunday at Kennedy Airport in response to the detainment of travelers who were en route to the United States when the executive order was issued.
Late Saturday evening, a federal judge blocked part of the executive order barring deportation of those already in airports in the United States.