Emad Alayoubi had never been to a protest.
On Sunday, January 29, the Muslim American actor and radio host joined roughly one hundred people on the plaza between the Westin Hotel and the terminal at Denver International Airport protesting President Donald Trump's ban on refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim countries. It was the second protest at the airport in two days.
Alayoubi, who has family from Syria, has long been fixated on his acting career, landing roles on television shows. He's never been an activist. He's neither a Democrat nor a Republican; he describes himself as a "constitutionalist."
"Donald Trump divided this country," Alayoubi said. "The world sees us differently."
It now sees the United States as a nation that has turned hostile toward foreigners and no longer welcomes people fleeing violence perpetrated by dictators and ISIS, he continues.
"More people should have got out and voted," Alayoubi added, noting Trump didn't exactly hide his vitriol toward Muslims, undocumented immigrants and refugees during his campaign. Nothing the president has done in his first week in office shocks the actor. Trump "made it clear," he said.
That doesn't mean people should resign themselves to the president's policies, he continued, and protesting the administration is "what we should be doing." The actor plans to continue demonstrating until Trump is impeached or has been voted out of office.
On Saturday, January 28, as protesters gathered at airports across the country to oppose Trump's refugee ban, Mehdi Vali sat in his office at the University of Wyoming, crying. The Iranian, who came to the United States five years ago believing it was the greatest, freest country on earth, is uncertain about the fate of his Iranian wife, who is stranded in Cyprus, and whether she will be allowed to join him in the U.S. Last week she had her visa approved, he says. After Trump banned travelers from Iran, Vali has no idea whether she will be able to join him here.
He arrived at DIA on Sunday and walked through the terminal, past Denver Police Department officers, including Commander Antonio Lopez, who on Saturday had repeatedly threatened to arrest hundreds of protesters, including two state representatives. (Lopez told organizers that the First Amendment did not apply within the 54 square miles of DIA.)
Vali arrived on the plaza carrying a green poster-board sign that stated, "Let my wife in." When demonstrators saw him, they chanted in unison, "Let his wife in."
He shared his story with the crowd. In response, a former Republican and Tea Party member expressed his sorrow, saying that the United States has turned into a dictatorship. "I am so sorry," he repeated to the Iranian.
While Saturday's protest at DIA was led by Muslims who presented an optimistic vision of the United States, Sunday's was organized by a white ally. At both events, protesters were patriotic and deeply dissatisfied with the Trump administration, which many called "un-American."
As passengers came and went from the airport, some grinned, others snarled. One chanted, "Build the wall!" and shot the bird at the demonstrators. Many, including airline employees, applauded the crowd, raised peace signs and chanted along. A few, luggage in tow, joined the rally. Most looked straight ahead and tried not to acknowledge the loud chants.
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The crowd was small enough that each time a demonstrator arrived with a sign, they were greeted by cheers.
"This is not enough," said the Tea Party member, who wished to remain anonymous.
Alayoubi, the actor, agreed. "They don't have a big crowd. But it's still loud."
After five hours in the plaza, the crowd dispersed peacefully. One protester, who carried a sign into the terminal, was asked to put it down by Lopez. He complied.