An estimated 5,000 people jammed the International Arrivals hall at Philadelphia International Airport Sunday, protesting President Trump's executive order on immigration. Officials at the airport say the crowd was so large, it filled the hall and forced protesters into the baggage claim area and out to the streets surrounding the airport.
About 1,000 of the protesters spilled outside and into the arrivals vehicle lane outside baggage claim, disrupting passengers trying to leave the bustling facility.
The gathering came a day after two families from Syria were detained and sent back to Doha, Qatar, blocked from entering this country to live in Allentown as legal immigrants with visas and green cards. Three others who had been detained at the airport were allowed to leave on Sunday.
Here a recap of the live coverage of the protest:
Raucous chants of "Hey, hey, ho, ho. Donald Trump has got to go," and "Refugees are welcome here! No hate. No fear." echoed through the terminal.
A self-described "red diaper baby," whose parents met on a picket line, Sue Rouda, 64, of Mt. Airy, carried a poster that read "Unconstitutional, Unconscionable."
Rouda said she had demonstrated against the Vietnam War and against construction of nuclear power plants in the past, but that this moment of protest feels even more urgent.
"It feels like [Trump and the billionaires around him] are lemmings on a death wish," she said.
Habib Abdo, 62, was born in Morocco and moved to Philadelphia with his wife and their two children in 2000. He said he speaks four languages, including Arabic, and has worked as a court interpreter, among other jobs. A naturalized U.S. citizen, he said, “We feel offended by these [executive] orders.”
He said his children, who are grown now, both work as accountants and have children of their own. Of his family, he said, “We belong to America.”
Rachel Winsberg of Jewish Voice for Peace, one of the groups that helped organize the airport demonstration, estimated the crowd at between 4,000 and 6,000. More than 4,300 people had said on Facebook they were planning to attend and another 9,000 indicated interest, according to a Facebook page set up for the event.
The protest, which organizers say is an attempt to voice their opposition to Trump’s “inhumane” policy, was scheduled to end at 4 p.m., but large crowds remained both in and outside the airport.
Bruce Wright of Glassboro, white-haired and carrying a poster embellished with a peace sign and declaring he was from the "Woodstock generation," told the Inquirer's Michael Matza he is "horrified what is happening to my country."
"This is NOT the America I remember," his sign said. "Resist."
— Michael Matza (@MichaelMatza1) January 29, 2017
Standing atop a concrete Jersey barrier, and speaking through a microphone, Philadelphia Councilwoman Helen Gym said, "If we are going to counter authoritarian policies from the top, ... the only thing we have to push back is the power of all of us. If you've ever wondered in your life where you are going to stand in moments of uncertainty, and in times of need, this is our time."
U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, (D-Phila), said "When I arrived, many people thanked me for being here today, but I thank you."
According to a family member, the two Syrian families who were sent back to the Middle East on Saturday were traveling with immigrant visas and were approved for green cards.
Sarah Assali, 25, of Allentown said their efforts to enter the United States had been in the works since 2003 and that the families were approved to enter in 2015; they stayed back to spend the Christmas holidays in Syria, she said, or they would already have been here.
The two families were among various migrants and others from the trageted Muslim countries who were detained at airports across the country on Friday and Saturday.
Saturday night, Federal judge Ann Donnelly of the Eastern Division of New York granted a stay on Trump’s order, which prevents the government from deporting migrants currently detained in airports in Philadelphia and across the country.
Donnelly’s ruling doesn’t reverse or strike down Trump’s entire executive order; it only applies to migrants who were granted visas and were legally able to come to the U.S. before the order was signed. The bulk of the order remains in effect for individuals not currently traveling to or currently in the U.S.