NEW YORK/ROME – Hundreds of ethnic Yemenis have shuttered their small businesses in New York City in protest of President Donald Trump’s travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries.
They include Manhattan deli owner Haron Zokari, who says his wife and baby are stuck in Yemen after almost completing a four-year green-card process.
The action Thursday will include a rally in Brooklyn. Borough President Eric Adams says many New Yorkers rely on the stores for their daily needs.
The protesters say people in their native country are trying to flee starvation and violence.
Trump’s executive order barring people from Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Syria for 90 days has resulted in travelers being detained, sent back from the United States or stranded in other countries.
The crowd stood shoulder to shoulder, crammed onto the steps outside Brooklyn’s City Hall, waving a sea of American flags and carrying the odd Yemeni flag or placards with slogans such as “Muslim Lives Matter.”
“Hate Will Never Make US Great” and “No Ban No Wall Refugees Are Welcome Here” said other signs as the crowd of mostly men took the afternoon off work, foregoing business to send a message to Trump.
“We stand here for justice, for dignity,” said Yousef al-Baadani, 31, who like many others works in a bodega, his in Queens.
“Most of the stores closed today,” he told AFP in reference to the Yemeni-owned bodega stores dotted across New York’s five boroughs.
Several of the protesters told AFP that they had been gathered for hours and some said they would remain until 8 p.m.
Protesters also chanted outside the U.S. Embassy in Rome on Thursday against Trump’s order to restrict entry into the United States for refugees and citizens of seven Muslim countries.
Last week’s executive order blocked citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and placed an indefinite hold on Syrian refugees.
“I fear the worst is yet to come,” said Fouad Roueiha, 37, who was born in Syria and raised in Italy. He brought his son and daughter with him “to teach them about civic duty,” and said the order prevented them from visiting family in Florida.
The order sparked large protests across the United States and in other countries.
In Rome, a few dozen protesters waved signs reading “No Ban, No Walls” and “Trump, ban torture not Muslims” in English.
A candlelit protest was due to be held later in front of the embassy by a group of Americans who live in Italy.
“If discriminatory policies take hold, it’s a danger for everyone everywhere,” said Michael Stiefel, 50, a lawyer and a U.S. citizen.
Antonella Napolitano, 35, who works for an Italian rights group that helped organize the protest, said: “One hundred years ago Italian immigrants in America were treated badly. There can be change. History does not have to repeat.”