BALTIMORE – More than 800 people headed to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport Sunday to protest President Donald Trump’s executive order to temporarily ban immigration from select countries and all refugees.
Hundreds of protesters waved signs and shouted about Trump’s executive order and the people who are barred from entering the country for the next three to four months: noncitizens from Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen as well as refugees.
Marc and Marybeth Leblanc, residents of Brunswick, attended the protest with their two young children.
“We feel that it is important to speak out,” Marc said.
He said he was reminded of the hospitality of his host family from when he served in the Peace Corps in Morocco and that he objected to restriction.
“We should (allow) immigrants and refugees, especially people who have gone through the whole (legal) process,” he said. “It’s not something to throw away lightly.”
Marybeth said they chose this protest as the first one to bring their children to because it was more contained than others, such as the Women’s March on Washington. With them were their 2-year-old son Felix and their newborn daughter, Eloise.
“Compared to other protests, this is more safe,” Marybeth said.
Protesters were scheduled to congregate near the concourse for international arrivals at 5 p.m., and by 6:15 p.m. police officers blocked the escalator and stairs closest to the protest due to the crowds. A few hundred filled the area on the floor above, including dozens who lined the mezzanine railing to catch a glimpse of the protest below.
Among them was Char Brooks, a Catonsville resident who attended Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. Brooks said she attended the protest in honor of the immigrant families and refugee families her church sponsors.
Brooks said she and fellow Salem Lutheran Church congregants attended “because we think it’s not fair that immigrants or refugees shouldn’t be allowed into America.”
Members of Salem Lutheran Church brought two girls from a refugee family who has lived in the U.S. for more than 10 years.
One of the girls, 13-year-old Ammai Mabil, was a baby when her family first sought refugee status from what is now South Sudan.
“There was a war conflict going on, and my mom didn’t want any of our lives to be at risk,” said Mabil.
Mabil said she didn’t remember where in South Sudan her family used to live.
Brooks added that Mabil’s family stayed in a refugee camp in Egypt prior to traveling to the U.S.
Mabil’s 10-year-old sister, Ayoul, attended the protest as well. She was born in the U.S.
“Donald Trump is really rude,” Ayoul said.
She added she believed one religion or race shouldn’t be singled out as being criminal, mentioning Trump’s reference to Muslims as an example.
Lindsay Fitch, who attends Salem, said at BWI that she was attending because the church was in the process of sponsoring another refugee family when Trump signed the executive order.
“We were hoping to have another family,” she said.
A group of Baltimore activists and local organizations announced the event on Facebook Saturday evening, less than 24 hours prior to when they scheduled it to start, in response to Trump’s international order, which was released Saturday.
Ryan Harvey, a Baltimore musician and activist, said the protest came out of a spontaneous meeting between friends.
“This was a one-time, this was like a what-the-hell-is-happening-with-the-country meeting,” Harvey said.
The group, which included representatives from several organizations, planned a protest at BWI “in solidarity” with the people who protested at Dulles International Airport Saturday. Little did the friends know, their protest would become one of several taking place at airports throughout the country Sunday.
A few hundred protesters remained past 8:15 p.m. in hopes of being able to show support for any immigrants or refugees on a flight arriving from Germany, organizers said.