About 200 people chanted and held up signs in support of refugees and immigrants Sunday at Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, as protests erupted across the nation in response to President Donald Trump's executive order that temporarily blocks people from seven predominately Muslim countries from entering the U.S.
Many held signs with such messages as "Greenville Welcomes Refugees," "No Ban, No Wall" and "Jesus Was A Refugee."
"We believe that order is unnecessary, illegal and unpatriotic," said Amy Jonason, co-organizer of Sunday's two-hour event at GSP.
There was no visible counter-protest, but as a Facebook live post by The Greenville News showed what was going on at the rally, viewers responded by flooding the video feed with a flurry of both hearts and angry-face emoticons, as well as comments both in support and against the protest.
“Go home !!! South Carolina stands behind our President,” Kimberly Goforth commented.
Local activist Bruce Wilson led the crowd in full-throated cheers such as "Love trumps hate," "We are all immigrants" and "No hate, no fear. Immigrants are welcome here."
"Our message is that America is an inclusive nation," Wilson said.
Many protesters expressed support for Nazanin Zinouri, a Clemson Ph.D. graduate who was detained in Dubai during a trip. Her plight drew widespread attention after she posted about it on Facebook.
"We stand with Nazanin Zinouri, who has been prohibited from entering the country," said Dan Weidenbenner, co-organizer of the Greenville rally. "We want her back."
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted, "We have been in touch with and are working to assist Clemson graduate Nazanin Zinouri."
Also, A GoFundMe effort was started Sunday to help defray the legal costs and other expenses Zinouri may face in getting back to the United States.
Meanwhile, at Clemson University, President Jim Clements sent out an email to students regarding Zinouri's detainment and the executive orders. In the message, he urged faculty and students to put off travel plans outside of the United States.
"For those faculty, staff, and students who could potentially be affected by this Executive Order, we would advise that you defer any travel outside of the U.S. for the time being if at all possible,” Clements wrote.
President Trump issued a statement Sunday saying that his executive order was necessary to keep the country safe.
"The seven countries named in the executive order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror," Trump said. "To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion -- this is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order."
Trump said the order was needed to give time for the nation to develop a system of "extreme vetting" for immigrants and refugees.
Rally organizer Jonason, however, said extreme vetting already is in place.
"It seems clear that refugees already undergo an extreme vetting process, especially refugees from Muslim countries," Jonason said. "They are put through multiple security checks as well as medical screenings. It's a process that can take anywhere from 18 months to three years. To say that we need more extreme vetting is just rhetoric to try to eliminate the possibility of immigrants and refugees from coming in at all."
Organizers of the Greenville rally posted a notice about it on Facebook at 11 p.m. Saturday, and by early afternoon Sunday more than 125 people had committed to attend. The Upstate Coalition for Equality helped to publicize the event.
Police were on hand to provide security, but they reported no major disruptions. The crowd dispersed peacefully after two hours.
Jonason, a Greenville resident who is not affiliated with a political group, said she felt motivated by her Mennonite faith to organize the rally.
"I'm a person of faith and I believe this country as well as my faith are founded on the idea of welcoming the stranger, welcoming immigrants," she said. "It's a history that I'd like to see continue. I think it's something that makes us great."
Worshippers at the Islamic Society of Clemson were exercising their faith Sunday as well, amid concern over what they see as misguided fears of their religion.
"The people in these countries — those are people who have not committed crimes,” said Maya Karkour, a student at T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson who was attending Sunday school at the Islamic center.
"They're being banned for crimes that they did not commit in a country they haven’t set foot in," Karkour said. "He's banning them just for existing."
Some Muslims on the Clemson campus are feeling a little less safe.
For the first time in her life, Dina Altwam carries pepper spray.
It hangs off of her backpack, and she takes it everywhere she goes — especially when she's on campus. The 33-year-old Anderson resident just began her working on her undergraduate degree at Clemson, and she said she's never had a problem on campus. But lately, national tensions are changing her life on a day-to-day basis.
"I carry Mace — pepper spray — for the first time ever on my backpack," Altwam said. "I never felt the need. And now, we don’t go out at night. Once it gets dark, we have to be home. There’s not a lot of people out at night, so is anyone going to stand up for us?"
As Muslim women, Karkour and Altwam said they understand the president's need to keep terrorists from entering the country. The problem is that those who commit acts of terrorism do not reflect the views of most Muslims, Altwam said.
"Anyone that’s Muslim is offended by these people that are doing these acts and calling themselves Muslim," Altwam said. "They're not Muslims. We hate them more than anyone else. They're making the religion look bad and Islam is not like that."