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Astoria rally against travel ban leans on immigrant values

Elected officials and community groups led a rally in Astoria against the ececutive order banning travel to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Photo by Mark Hallum
By Mark Hallum

Community leaders and elected officials led about 200 people in an Astoria rally against President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries last Feb. 3.

“We’re standing today with our Muslim community. We’re here to say that this disgusting order that has divided families, that’s pushed people out of our country is wrong and hateful and it is not what our country was founded on,” Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) said. “And it’s not just about this order, it’s about the entire tenor of the this presidency.”

The T intersection at 25th Avenue and Steinway Street was partially blocked off for protesters by NYPD barricades with about 20 officers keeping watch over the proceedings led by Constantinides and featured speakers such as U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria), Public Advocate Letitia James, state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing), Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Jackson Heights). Representatives from the Muslim American Society of Queens, Ansob Center for Refugees and the New York chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations also delivered remarks.

“We either tear up this ban, or we tear down the Statue of Liberty and what it stands for,” Maloney said. “We hold these ideals so close to our hearts and we will overturn this ban, and we will go forward with the American Dream.”

Early in the rally, an opponent of the demonstration launched insults at the speakers from the back of the crowd, calling the officials and attendees “scumbags” and “snowflakes,” which the speakers ignored.

“Those that oppose us think that we’re going to suffer from fatigue, and I want them know that we are going to be out here everyday because I am of the opinion that this president is illegitimate and that what we should do is resist, resist, resist,” James said.

Simotas immigrated to the United States with her family as a child and praised the number of children in the crowd holding signs.

“The children! That’s what we’re fighting for, to make sure America stays America for us and for our children,” Simotas said. “My family came here in the late ‘70s. I can tell you that the reason they were able to get by was because they got help from their neighbors… The reason why we are all so connected in Astoria is because this community was built by immigrants and will be one that continues to welcome immigrants.”

Kim, the first Korean-American elected to the Assembly, came from Flushing to speak about the xenophobic sentiments he had to deal with growing up as an immigrant who came to the United States when he was 7 years old.

“I know how it feels, my wife knows how it feels, to be treated like a foreigner in our own country,” Kim said. He cited the Chinese Exclusion Act, passed in 1882, which imposed a 10-year moratorium on the immigration of Chiense laborers and marked the first U.S. law to ban immigrants.

Saying the act still is felt in America today in the way Asian-Americans are treated socially, Kim said: “It is more important than ever to be united and stick up for our Muslim brothers and sisters or the next generation will suffer.”

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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