White House

Once again, crowds confront Trump outside the people’s house

Ahmed El-Ashram, a 32-year-old Egyptian-American, holds a sign while joining a demonstration outside the White House Sunday against President Donald Trump’s executive order limiting Muslim travel to the United States, on Jan. 29, 2017 in Washington DC.
Ahmed El-Ashram, a 32-year-old Egyptian-American, holds a sign while joining a demonstration outside the White House Sunday against President Donald Trump’s executive order limiting Muslim travel to the United States, on Jan. 29, 2017 in Washington DC. McClatchy

Angered by President Donald Trump’s executive order limiting Muslim travel to the United States, several thousand protesters converged on the White House on Sunday, the second time in eight days Trump had confronted large demonstrations at his doorstep.

The turnout was nowhere near the hundreds of thousands that showed up last weekend for the Washington, D.C., Women’s March. But Sunday’s crowd, quickly assembled after a call-out on social media, arrived with a sense of urgency. They yelled out slogans – “Shame! Shame! Shame!” – while pointing their fingers at the White House, hoping Trump might be watching.

“What has happened is cowardly. It is shameful,” said Cristina Scarpaci, a Cuban-American who held a sign noting that her mother was a refugee. “As Americans, we need to bond together to make sure that refugees looking for safe harbor can find it here in the United States.”

Scarpaci said her mother fled Cuba in the 1960s, at the age 16, and was held in detention for three days in Florida before being reunited with her family in New York City. “I’ve had several family members who have been able to come to the United States as political refugees. ... This is a country that was built on helping others.”

Late last week, Trump signed an order banning citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from traveling to the United States for 90 days, while suspending all refugee admissions for 120 days. A federal judge Saturday placed a stay on deporting people detained under that order, setting up a legal fight that will play out this week.

Ahmed El-Ashram, a 32-year-old Egyptian-American, said he was compelled to join the D.C. protest Sunday because of his family’s situation. El-Ashram’s uncle has brothers in Damascus, Syria, whom he’s been trying to bring to the United States. “Now my uncle has no hope. There is no future,” he said. “They are stuck in a war-torn zone, and they can’t come to safety, to America.”

While doubtful Trump will change his mind, El-Ashram said he hopes the protests will help spread awareness that many Americans do not support the so-called Muslim ban. “As you can see from this whole event, there are Muslims, non-Muslims, Christians, Jews,” he said. “There all types of people here and we are all in this together.”

Trump was in the Oval Office, making calls, when Sunday’s protest started. It was not immediately known whether he took notice, although the demonstrations nationwide would be hard to ignore. Rallies against his executive order were held in the cities and airports of Boston, Atlanta, Kansas City, Sacramento, Raleigh, Charlotte and other communities around the country Sunday, after more spontaneous protests erupted Saturday in New York and other cities.

According to the White House, Trump spoke Sunday with King Salman bin Abd Al-Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia. “They agreed on the importance of strengthening joint efforts to fight the spread of radical Islamic terrorism and also on the importance of working jointly to address challenges to regional peace and security, including the conflicts in Syria and Yemen,” said the White House in a statement.

Sunday’s White House protest was peaceful and lasted less than two hours, whereupon a contingent set off to protest outside of Trump’s hotel downtown, and others headed to the U.S. Capitol several blocks away. Some protesters said they were mad not just at Trump and his Republican supporters but also at Democrats in Congress.

“I wish the Democrats would get some spine,” said Suzanne Blue Star Boy, a Washington resident and member of the Yankton Sioux tribe of South Dakota. “The Democrats will sit in committee and whine about some of Trump’s (Cabinet) picks, but then they will turn around and vote to confirm them.”

Anita Kumar contributed to this report.

Stuart Leavenworth: @sleavenworth

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