Columbus Joins National Protests Against Trump's Ban On Refugees
At Hampton Inn Hotel, a large group gathered early on Sunday afternoon and proceeded to march towards John Glenn International Airport. Within the hour, the group had swelled to more than 600 protesters, including two of Ohio's members of Congress.
The booming crowd gathered to chant and sing at the entrance, greeting new arrivals. Unsuspecting travelers stopped to admire the crowd and snap a selfie, while others looked on and walked briskly past.
On Friday evening, President Trump signed an executive order that indefinitely bars Syrian refugees from entering the United States. It suspended admission to the country for all refugees for 120 days, and blocks from entering the States for 90 days refugees and green card holders alike from seven majority-Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Among the demonstrators was Kayla Merchant, an Ohio State University graduate with the American flag wrapped around her shoulders. Merchant said that several local organizations organized the demonstration, with word of the event spreading quickly across Facebook within the last 36 hours.
Merchant called the president "terrifying." But she reiterated that demonstrations like this one were for showing support of the people affected, as well as for planning their next move.
"At this point it's really just about the ACLU," Merchant said, "gathering our friends who are attorneys and specialize in immigration law."
Despite the large crowd, law enforcement reported that travel at the airport was not seriously disrupted. At one point in the afternoon protesters gathered in the airport lobby, but remained peaceful.
But not everyone came to the airport to demonstrate.
Clayton Kirby arrived on his way home to Florida after a short hunting trip in Columbus. Kirby hurried through the crowd with his luggage and shouted a defiant, "Trump!"
"I'm all for making certain that the laws we have on books are enforced," Kirby said. "I'm happy that Trump won. I voted for him."
For many in the crowd, however, the political was personal. The protesters included a number of former refugees, hailing from countries like Syria and Somalia.
Fifteen-year-old Yasimin Ahmed, the daughter of Somali refugees, attended the protest with her younger siblings. Ahmed said the president's ban reverberated across Columbus' very large Somali community, many of whom now worry they won't be reunited with relatives waiting in refugee camps.
Two of Ohio's representatives in Washington—Rep. Joyce Beatty and Sen. Sherrod Brown—joined with their constituents in protest.
Brown recently supported Trump's decision to leave the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, but on this most recent executive order, Brown stood in strong opposition.
"This is a humanitarian crisis caused by the President of the United States," Brown said. "This kind of action is a terrible message to the world. It doesn't make us safer, it make us less safe."