Reno residents joined protesters around the world to participate in “Bridges Not Walls,” the Jan. 29, protest against President Donald J. Trump’s travel ban on citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries. Since the ban was implemented Friday, Jan. 27, the Northern Nevada International Center has had to halt their Syrian refugee resettlement program and put a hold on hiring new employees.
Carina Black, executive director of the Northern Nevada International Center, said she does not plan to hire any new employees for the Syrian refugee resettlement program and that the ban will halt the program until it is lifted. The interruption of the program will also affect Syrian refugee families planning to arrive in Reno within the next four months.
“[The refugee resettlement employee positions] will remain down until the ban is lifted,” Black said. “We hope it will be lifted soon and we can continue with hiring and the program.”
Trump’s executive order issued strict measures to counter domestic terrorist attacks, including placing a ban on seven countries whose citizens would be banned from entering the United States. The banned countries include Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia.
In addition to banning the seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S., Trump’s executive order also suspended the entire U.S. refugee admissions system for 120 days and suspended the Syrian refugee program indefinitely.
On Sunday, Jan. 29, hundreds of people gathered on the Virginia Street bridge to show their support for Reno’s refugee resettlement program and programs throughout the country.
The protest was organized by the Reno Solidarity Network.
Ana Lopez, an undergraduate student at the University of Nevada, Reno, came out in support because her father is an immigrant.
“I hope for someone to notice and for people to think about the issue more,” Lopez said.
Although the Reno Solidarity Network did not obtain a permit for their march,
they peacefully protested without interrupting traffic or blocking sidewalks. The protest had designated “peacekeepers” to guide people across the crosswalks to ensure there was no harm to protestors or blocking of the bridge.
The Reno Solidarity Network also provided phone numbers of elected officials and a sample script in which they outlined a general dialogue to voice displeasure with Trump’s immigration policy.
The protest began with Felicia Lopez, a speaker at the event, calling for the protesters to “practice radical love.” Lopez reinforced the idea of peaceful protesting to send a message to officials of Reno, as well as across the country.
Once at the bridge, protesters were heard chanting, “Bridges! Not Walls! Justice for all!” and “No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!”
The chanting grew quiet as a truck drove by yelling, “Trump” out the window. In response, Lopez asked everyone to stay quiet with one fist raised. The protesters stood in this eerie silence for several moments until Lopez said, “We can be silent and we can be just as loud.”
At Reno City Plaza, in front of the Believe sign, protesters gathered to hear Holly Welborn, policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada.
Welborn said it was important to defend the ACLU’s cause and asked for support from the Reno community.
When asked why these protests are necessary, Lopez said, “It is not enough to vote during elections to express the direction you think our elected officials should take. We need to ‘vote’ every day with our letters, calls and feet.”
Last Friday, a federal judge in Seattle suspended Trump’s executive order, temporarily allowing people from the seven banned countries to enter the United States.
In addition to the judge’s suspension of the ban, 10 previous national security and foreign policy officials filed a declaration in the court case arguing against the travel ban. They said the ban served no national security purposes. The signees included former secretaries of state John Kerry, Madeleine Albright and Susan Rice among others.
Over the weekend, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco denied the Trump administration’s emergency request to suspend the Seattle judge’s block of the ban, saying it would only consider the request after it received more information.
The circuit court will hear arguments against Trump’s executive order travel ban on Tuesday, and likely decide in the coming days whether the ban will remain suspended. If the court overrules the original district court decision, the case could go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, delaying any long-standing resolution to the matter until later this year.