A handful of demonstrators gathered outside the U.S. Consulate General on West Pender Street Monday afternoon to protest the latest moves by U.S. President Donald Trump.
Trump has made a wave of highly controversial decisions since he took power just over a week ago, including issuing an executive order on Friday barring the admission of refugees into the U.S. for 120 days and putting a 90-day freeze on entry for citizens of seven predominately Muslim countries — Libya, Sudan, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia.
It sparked thousands of Americans to protest at airports across the U.S. over the weekend.
In Vancouver, Monday’s protesters carried signs reading “No Muslim Ban,” “We welcome immigrants” and “No Ban No Wall.” They also chanted slogans such as "No Trump, No KKK, No fascist USA,” and "Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here."
The protest was organized overnight by the Vancouver chapter of Our Revolution, which describes itself as a grassroots organization of progressive U.S. citizens. The group was formerly known as B.C. for Bernie, after Democratic leadership candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, but morphed into Our Revolution after the presidential election to continue its political work.
Linda Maxwell, a Canadian with dual citizenship, lived in Washington State with her American husband for 10 years and got her U.S. citizenship about three years ago.
“I’m just very concerned about Trump being in power… For him to be in that position and to be making these decisions that he’s making has an impact, not only for the U.S. and U.S. Citizens, but for people throughout the world,” she said. “The Women’s March and protests like this will hopefully raise awareness. Hopefully, people will get active and this will be a catalyst for people to become active and be politically involved.”
Maxwell said she supported Sanders to be the Democrat’s presidential nominee, but after he lost to Hillary Clinton, she switched her allegiance to Clinton.
“I think a lot of the media had an influence on painting Hillary a certain way and a lot of people bought into that. I would have preferred Bernie but Hillary was definitely a better option than Trump,” she said.
David Mivasair, one of the Our Revolution organizers in Vancouver, is originally from Baltimore, but has lived in Canada for 21 years.
“We just have to visibly, audibly demonstrate our support for the thousands of people who belong in the USA and aren’t being allowed in. We have to demonstrate our opposition, our resistance, to what this current government is doing,” he said.
Mivasair said he’s shocked by speed at which Trump is making decisions.
“It’s like wack-a-mole. You can’t keep up with it. There’s so much happening on so many fronts. Every single day there’s so much — we totally can’t keep up with it.”
But he expects protests will grow and that they will be successful in the long term.
“The tens of thousands of people that are turning up at airports across the United States, nobody’s organizing that. That’s a spontaneous outpouring of people’s hearts’ response. So that will just continue,” he said.
Ellen MacAskill, who’s from Scotland but has been in Vancouver since November on a working visa, has wanted to protest Trump for the past week, but this was her first day off.
She thinks the U.S. government’s tactic is to overwhelm people with a lot of different issues but “as many people as are able should keep protesting because not everyone is able.”
“It’s so important not to get tired out and overwhelmed by the news, but to keep coming out and keep supporting each other,” she said. “I feel really alarmed. I find it constantly on my mind. I find it hard to tune out from the news and I don’t think we should. It’s completely necessary for our cultural sanity to have these protests. Trump’s already in power. But the rise of fascism isn’t inevitable — we can still resist.”
Lozan Yamolky’s protest sign read: “Trump you suck at making America great again.”
Yomolky, a Kurdish woman from northern Iraq, left Iraq in 1994 and was a refugee in Turkey. She immigrated to Canada in 1995 and has since become a citizen.
She wanted to come out in support of immigrants and refugees and cited an Arabic saying that translates to: silence is a sign of acceptance.
“I wanted to make a physical appearance, to make noise, to make a statement that we’re not going to be silent,” she said.
Despite Trump’s decisions, Yomolky said she’s optimistic about the future.
“Part of me was very worried and scared for the world. But with all of these people standing up from all genders, from all walks of life, from all religions, from all faiths, from all citizenships all over the world, [all of them] gathering up and making such a statement is giving me a tremendous amount of hope…. This bad stuff is uniting us. What Trump is doing is uniting us.”
Our Revolution protesters plan to return to the U.S. Consulate General at noon on Tuesday for a second demonstration.
Meanwhile, politicians across Canada posted messages of support for refugees and immigrants on social media, including Mayor Gregor Robertson, B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
BC celebrates diversity and has welcomed 1,000s of refugees. We will work with the Federal Government to support stranded refugees.— Christy Clark (@christyclarkbc) January 29, 2017
To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 28, 2017