The power of protests, the power of unity


Photo taken by: Yusra Waris

A protester cups his hands around his mouth to amplify his voice. Someone even brought drums to further encourage everyone to continue chanting.

With the inauguration of Donald Trump, protests exploded on a global scale, uniting people of all backgrounds. The passion behind the Women’s March on Jan. 21 and spontaneous airport detainee protests this past weekend managed to turn resentment and disagreement into a binding glue for society.

Ironically, Trump, in my opinion, is the person who deserves credit for this strengthened unity and energy. Through his unexpected decision to ban legal green card holders from the seven Muslim majority countries: Yemen, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Somalia, foreign and internal relationships have changed. In response, Iran issued a ban of United States citizens and green card holders and doors were temporarily closed to refugees, yet at the same time citizens linked up to protest for the rights many have died for.

To be honest, this revolutionary response was something I never expected. In fact, I lost so much hope that I emotionally prepared myself for the heinous comments against my Muslim background, familial ties to the Middle East and most importantly, against the diverse environment I grew up in. I thought that this was something I had to accept and silently deal with for the next four years, maybe even longer.

Luckily, not everyone gave up like I did; they didn’t let one person in power bend justice into what he believed was right. These protesters continued to fight for the America built for all of us. And these people helped reignite my dormant hope in the fight for my rights and for my people.

Ever since fifth grade, when I was more aware of international events, I’ve always dreamed of fighting unitedly to overcome the backwardness of politics and stereotypes. Now five years later, I am and I will continue to combat it.

Before attending the Dallas Fort/Worth Airport protest, I thought it was my fight against the new societal constraints, but now, after attending the protest, I know it’s not a battle that was delegated to me alone. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “what affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

My friend and I pose together while holding our handmade signs. The protest tackled other issues like the Palestinian and the Mexican-American border conflict along with the travel ban.

At the airport, I chanted side by side with people of different backgrounds, stories and opinions. The emotion behind every chant filled the terminal, literally. As my friend and I pushed forward into the crowd in our quest to locate the perfect spot to hold our sign, we received nothing but kind smiles from other participants for having taken part in this event.

From what I saw,  it didn’t seem to matter to anyone where they stood, just as long as his or her voice was being heard and making an impact. Some adults even excitingly offered to give their place to us if it meant that we would be closer to the front and watch history take place.

Every time an immigrant walked out of the customs door, the crowd exploded with happiness, even though they were clearly not detainees. As people walked out to the arrivals gate, the more hope and energy filled the air. So when the detainees would actually be released, we all leaped with joy.

These moments were possibly the ones I’ll cherish for life. My own family and friends were next to me, as they had been all day, but watching others reunite was something heartwarming to watch; the more families were reunited, the more complete I felt. Witnessing the genuine support towards my culture through the chants, warm hugs and words of encouragement now makes me hopeful for the future of our society. From this experience I now know that I don’t have to silently wait for four years to feel openly welcomed or safe in public, I already am, even if I don’t see it.

Fighting fire with fire has not and never will produce favorable outcomes, but battling with unification has and will. All wars, no matter how world changing, ended with peace negotiations. Without harmony, the steps towards women’s and civil rights may have not taken root. If it weren’t for solidarity, I might not be standing in the land of the free and home of the brave I am proud to live in today.

This event was eye opening, to say the least. I now know that my rights, no matter whoever tries to tamper with them, would be wholeheartedly protected. No act of hatred or violence could disrupt it since  “Together, united. We’ll never be divided.”

This is what democracy looks like. This is what my America looks like.