Chants of “ban the ban” and “this is what democracy looks like” filled downtown Greenville Saturday as protesters gathered in a show of opposition to President Donald Trump’s stance on refugees.
The Islamic Society of Greenville organized the “No Hate, No Fear, No Ban!” rally at One City Plaza to support refugees and others affected by Trump’s recent immigration order.
The order imposes a 120-day suspension of the refugee program and a 90-day travel ban that prohibits people from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan from entering the United States.
Carrying signs that read “Refugees Welcome” and “Immigrants Make America Great,” protesters listened as representatives from the Islamic Society, a Furman University professor and other faith leaders spoke about the importance of inclusion. They urged the community to show love for immigrants and refugees instead of hate and fear.
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“I think Donald Trump is a menace to our country,” said Jean Bailey of Boiling Springs. “This thing with banning Muslims is one part of a horrific page in our history.”
Bailey said she’d like to see all of Trump’s executive orders overturned because he’s “done nothing good.” The sheer volume of the orders makes it impossible to really know the full impact of each one, she said.
“So many things are happening so quickly, people can’t examine each thing and give it adequate consideration,” Bailey said. “It’s just one thing after another.”
Ali Syed of Greenville attended the rally with his two young daughters, ages 5 and 2, because he wanted them to hear the "good message" it was sending.
Despite their young ages, Syed said, his daughters are very much a part of their community and they needed to be part of the rally.
Syed said for him personally, it was heartening to see the unity and support coming from people outside the Muslim community.
“This tells us we’re not alone,” Syed said. “We have our friends from all different backgrounds here to support us. That makes me happy and it’s nice to see that.”
Saturday’s rally was more personal for Fatima Khalil of Greer.
Khalil came to the U.S. 11 years ago from Morocco in search of a better life and more opportunities. It was hard for her, she said, because she came here alone and worked hard to overcome several barriers, particularly with language.
When she first arrived, Khalil said she spoke Arabic and French but very little English. She worked in a hotel for a while and eventually learned English, obtained a green card and became a nurse.
While Trump’s executive order doesn’t include Morocco, Khalil said she wants other refugees to have the same opportunities she had. She said some of the affected countries are in bad shape, and she would like people to have the chance to escape that.
“I made the decision to come here because I knew America is great and I could have more opportunities here than Morocco,” Khalil said. “I think it’s still great, but with these orders I’m still in shock. I would love for Trump to reverse his decision.”