Brooklyn Borough Hall was packed even before the night had begun.
Thousands of Yemeni-Americans and supporters showed up in the late afternoon yesterday in Downtown Brooklyn for a prayer gathering and protest against President Donald Trump’s Executive Order which he signed last Friday to block refugees and other “foreign-born individuals” from entering the U.S. from a list of seven predominantly Muslim countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen).
Events leading up to Borough Hall began at noon yesterday, as Yemeni-American bodega owners closed their businesses until 8pm last night. “In support of our family, friends, and loved ones who are stranded at U.S. airports and overseas, we are closing our business today,” signs read on bodegas throughout the city.
By the times the protest officially began at 4:30pm, crowds packed the plaza in front of Brooklyn Borough Hall and surrounding streets and sidewalks. The crowd swelled to approximately 6,000-7,000, according to protest organizers.
Attendees spread out across the plaza, facing Northeast towards Mecca and kneeled in Muslim prayer.
Bronx resident Ali told Gothamist that he was detained at JFK for about eight hours on after a flight from Malaysia, and was not provided with food or water. “I’m a US citizen. I didn’t expect anything,” said Ali. “I showed them my passport, but they didn’t care about me. They looked at me like I was an immigrant. I was the only Yemeni person on the flight.'”
In addition to Yemeni-Americans, activists and politicians came out to support the protest, including Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Public Advocate Letitia James, and Council Member Jumaane Williams (Brooklyn, 45th District).
“You are sending a clear, loud message to America. You, too are Americans,” said Adams.
Neighbors also turned out in support of the protest, expressing great concern about how the Executive Order has affected so many members of the community.
“There’s a real vibrancy to the protests happening now, and this was no exception,” said Clinton Hill resident Elsa Ransom. “I wanted to be a part of it because I believe in their strike, I support them and their methods. We are a nation of immigrants, and I want to see the US continue to embrace people from all over. If I can lend my small voice, even for a moment, to this cause, then I am excited to do so.”
Protests have indeed been taking place all over New York City and the entire country in response to several Trump Executive Orders as well as his policies in general.
The activist group DRUM, or Desis Rising Up & Moving, gathered last week in Kensington to establish a “Hate-Free Zone,” and members from all over Brooklyn are creating programs and gatherings to organize the public.
“You have proven your power,” Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, told protesters. “Elected officials would not be here today if they did not recognize your power.”
A Facebook page has been established called Buy Out The Bodega which asks neighbors to shop at their local bodega to help make up for lost business during yesterday’s closures. View the page to learn how you can contribute.