Protesters march to the Arch in opposition to Trump executive order
A protest took place in downtown St. Louis this past Saturday in response to President Donald Trump’s recent executive order on immigration, commonly referred to as the “Muslim ban,” and other anti-immigration and anti-refugee acceptance policies.
The first in a series of events, the march from Union Station to the Thomas F. Eagleton U.S. Federal Courthouse, was organized by Sydwell Davin, a photographer in the greater St. Louis area. Once the group of marching protesters reached the Courthouse, they united with a larger crowd participating in a rally organized by the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Missouri chapter. Following the rally, the group of over 800 protesters and activists marched to the Gateway Arch.
The initial march was spearheaded by Wes Schnitker, an organizer with Socialist Alternative St. Louis and a repeat protester, who led the crowd down Market Street with chants of “One people, one nation, one family,” “No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here” and “When immigrant lives are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back.”
Before the march began, Schnitker addressed the crowd and reminded protesters to be mindful of police officers and cars as they marched down a section of Market Street, which was not closed off for the event.
“It’s an awesome showing of people coming out, especially people new to the resistance,” Schnitker said of the people that attended the march.
As the procession continued past the Department of Health building, police officers in cars and on bikes flanked the group of marchers. At the Courthouse, the initial protesters joined forces with a larger group preparing for the rally.
At the rally, several speakers addressed the crowd about the Muslim ban, among other issues. Beginning with a rendition of the National Anthem by a local fourth-grade Muslim student, the list of nine speakers included Representative Bruce Franks Jr.; Keith Rose, a police accountability activist; and John Hickey, the Sierra Club Missouri chapter director.
Many in the crowd held up signs making proclamations of their own experiences, like “I am a Muslim refugee,” “Bosnian refugees love St. Louis” or “100 percent Guatemalan, 100 percent American,” while others displayed their solidarity through phrases like “We stand with our Muslim sisters and brothers.”
Along the walkway, organizers handed out signs reading “You can stay in my house.” Local stores, like HSB Tobacconist on the Delmar Loop, offered free signs to customers reading “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here” the week before the event.
The participants, who came from many neighborhoods and small towns in the greater St. Louis area, included families, local college students and activists; like local artist and activist Matt Durney, who helped lead the first march down Market Street with a megaphone.
“I got involved because I believe this is the time for people to come out and stand up for what they feel. It’s important to speak out and show up and build the community we wish to see,” Durney said.
After the rally, protesters left the Courthouse and continued down Market Street toward the Arch. At the base of the Arch, another rally, centered around a drum circle, began.
Washington University sophomore Hammy Sorkin, who attended the march and rally, held up a sign reading, “Another Jew that hates Islamophobia.” Sorkin cited her parent’s encouragement as part of her motivation for attending the rally.
“My family raised me going to marches and protests…and I think the Muslim ban is not only unconstitutional and illegal but completely immoral and moronic,” Sorkin said. “I can’t stand by and allow others to suffer.”
Event organizers were encouraged by the event’s attendance, but urged those involved to continue to stay active in the community.
“Hopefully people will come to the groups that have been fighting in this city for years, since Ferguson and previously, to ‘earn their stripes’ and get involved moving forward,” Schnitker said.