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Hundreds protest at DIA against Trump's immigration and refugee ban

January 28, 2017 Updated: January 29, 2017 at 9:12 am
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Joined by travelers arriving at Denver International Airport, hundreds of people on Saturday protested President Donald Trump's order banning citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States and suspending the admission of refugees.

Threatened with arrest by Denver police if they chanted or waved signs inside the terminal, the protesters instead sang, "Refugees are welcome here," to the tune of "When the Saints Go Marching In."

"This is America," said Jim Akeen, a traveler from Los Angeles on his way to Aspen, who joined the protest. "We are all free, and that means free to travel."

The DIA protest was among demonstrations throughout the day at some of the country's busiest air travel hubs, including New York's JFK, Newark Liberty in New Jersey, O"Hare in Chicago, and LAX in Los Angeles.

About an hour after the protest at DIA ended, a federal judge in Brooklyn granted a request from the American Civil Liberties Union to stay deportations of those detained on entry to the United States following Trump's executive order, the Washington Post reported.

Amal Kassir, a 21-year-old Syrian-American born in Denver, organized the DIA protest around picking up a friend at the airport at 7:30 p.m.

The event was as much about the U.S. Constitution as it was defending the rights of foreign travelers, she said.

She passed out roses to protesters urging them to spread peace not hate.

State Reps. Joe Salazar of Thornton and Leslie Herod of Denver joined the protest, along with representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado.

"We've got to stand up and push back," said Denise Maes, the ACLU's public policy director for Colorado. "It's a bit of a dark episode, and we have to show up and stand together to say this is not what America stands for."

The protesters did not apply for a permit a week in advance as required to demonstrate in the terminal, and police and airport security patiently urged them to leave the main terminal. Police spokesman Sonny Jackson said police were trying to respect the protesters' rights while enforcing the rules. Denver police tweeted afterward that the protest had been peaceful and no one was arrested.

Arian Noorzai, 28, of Denver said protesters were a little afraid of being arrested, but said the issue was worth the risk. He was born in Denver but his father came to Denver as a refugee from Afghanistan.

"It's an issue that hits close to home, but it should for every American," he said.

While some arriving passengers joined the protesters, other's voiced their support for Trump's action, shouting, "Make America great again" and "Go home."

"Some people who love America hate what it stands for," said Eileen Huff of Denver, a 70-year-old who took part in the protest.

Four travelers - an Iranian couple en route to their home in Portland, Ore., and a mother with an infant daughter returning from Syria - were detained and questioned Saturday after arriving at DIA on a flight from Germany, the Denver Post reported. The married couple, both surgeons in their 60s, and the woman were questioned by Border Patrol agents for about two hours before being allowed to continue their travels, according to the Post.

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