By ALI SCHMITZ
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Holding hands and linking arms, protesters gathered along Kanawha Boulevard, in Charleston, on Sunday in a human chain rally supporting Muslim-Americans.
Hundreds of people attended the event, called Link Up for Love. It comes a week after President Donald Trump signed an executive order that would indefinitely bar Syrian refugees from the United States, temporarily ban people from seven predominantly Muslim countries and temporarily stop refugee admissions.
A Seattle judge’s ruling Friday put a temporary hold on the ban nationwide and the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the Trump administration’s request to reinstate it, the Associated Press reported. The White House said Sunday it expected the courts to reaffirm President Donald Trump’s executive power and put the ban back into place.
People attending the event held signs supporting Muslims and refugees. Some signs attacked Trump. The human chain stretched from Greenbrier Street more than 1,500 feet, past Kanawha Riflemen Memorial Park.
For Kiran Faridi, the event was personal. She and her physician husband are from Pakistan. They were placed in Logan years ago and decided to stay because they loved how friendly everyone was to them. They now have four children, three daughters and one son. All of them were born and raised in Charleston.
“We are here to serve people, and we are trying to help others,” she said.
She said the order has caused fear in her family. They watched the inauguration together, her children listening as Trump promised to “rebuild our country and restore its promise for all of our people.”
Her 6-year-old daughter turned to her and asked, “Does that include me?”
Faridi said it was a sad moment because she didn’t know how to answer the question. She tries to not turn on the news now. She said it’s difficult to remain strong when her children ask questions about the executive order or hate speech. She said attending the rally was a way to show them they can fight for justice. She said she never expected so many people to attend the event.
“When we’re all together, we’ll always win,” she said. “Fear has no place here, and it will never make us great.”
While hundreds of people cheered and chanted against the order, two men stood across the street forming a counter protest. Hurl White held two signs — a Trump campaign sign and a two-sided sign that argued the travel ban makes America safe on one side and expressed support for veterans and homeless individuals on the other. He said the protesters should focus on other issues.
“How come they ain’t pushing for vets and homeless folks, children, the American people, jobs? Americans come first,” White said. “The true Americans are getting tired of these protests.”
Rose Winland held a sign saying “free hugs.” She said the sign was initially a way to launch conversation with counter protesters. When she crossed the street she decided to give hundreds of hugs to people along the chain. She said she was in tears when she read about the executive order. She called it a betrayal to Muslim-Americans.
“I felt that it was important that anybody who can would come out and show that we love our neighbors, particularly now when this set of neighbors needs us,” Winland said. “It’s critical that those of us who are ready and willing to show it would be there.”
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