Hundreds at Miami Airport Protest Trump's Muslim Ban Amid Heavy Police Presence

Hundreds at Miami Airport Protest Trump's Muslim Ban Amid Heavy Police Presence
Photo by Jerry Iannelli
By 3:30 p.m. Sunday, three Miami-Dade County Police wagons were parked outside Departure Gate 9 at Miami International Airport. A battalion of county cops stood elbow-to-elbow in the middle of the street, at least one clad in a K-9 Unit vest. Multiple times, the cops had threatened to arrest members of the more than 300-person crowd that had gathered at MIA to protest President Trump's Muslim-travel ban.

In response, the crowd began to chant.

"I!" they shouted. "I believe! I believe that we will win! I believe that we will win!"

From roughly noon to 4 p.m. yesterday, several hundred protesters stood outside multiple departure gates at MIA, chanting in unison against Trump's Friday executive order, which temporarily banned travel from seven majority-Muslim nations.
The Miami demonstration came amid a weekend of large protests erupting in major airports around the United States, especially in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., after U.S. visa and green-card-holders were detained after landing in the States. At least one 18-month-old U.S. resident was detained and scores of others were set for deportation until the American Civil Liberties Union intervened and a federal judge temporarily halted the immigration proceedings.

But just nine days into Trump's presidency, the ordeal is unfolding into a constitutional crisis. Despite the orders of a federal judge, detainees at Washington Dulles International outside D.C. have not been granted access to lawyers in what appear to be clear contempt-of-court actions on the part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Though no one appears to have been detained this weekend at MIA, three travelers — one Iranian and two Syrian nationals — were held at Orlando International Airport yesterday. U.S. Rep. Darren Soto worked with Border Patrol agents to fight for the travelers' release, and they were finally permitted entry into the United States after seven hours yesterday. A legal permanent resident was also detained after returning from a cruise to Fort Lauderdale.

On Sunday, a mix of labor activists, union representatives, and Democratic politicians showed up at MIA to chant in solidarity with the rest of the nation's protesters. After briefly demonstrating in the rain near the flagpoles by Terminal F, the protesters streamed onto the sidewalk in front of the airport's entrances, blocking access to Gate 11. The activists then passed around a megaphone, chanting and tossing insults at President Trump.

"His hands are too small to build the wall!" the crowd roared. One self-described Muslim demonstrator grabbed the microphone while waving a red scarf in his other hand.

"They are dying in Iraq! They are dying in Yemen! They are dying in Iran!" he shouted. "It is not their fault! It is the dirty politicians! I love Christians! I love Jews! I love all people, but I hate you, Trump!"

Then the crowd parted to make way for two politicians — Florida state Rep. Kionne McGhee, who represents portions of Homestead and Cutler Bay, and state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, who also represents parts of South Miami-Dade. McGhee took the mike and recalled walking out last week on the anti-immigrant racist Mark Krikorian, whom state Republicans had callously invited to address the Florida Legislature.

"This last Thursday, my colleagues and I were on the floor of the Florida House of Representatives," McGhee began, "and the bigots and racists attempted to bring the same sorry type of legislation to our great state of Florida. But we did something that had never been done before: My colleagues and I, we stood up to the bigots and the racists, and we walked out in protest."

Tensions between the demonstrators and Miami-Dade Police then began to simmer. One admitted plainclothes cop, with a shaved head and blue hoodie, engaged in a brief verbal sparring match with local labor activist Tomas Kennedy wherein the cop threatened to arrest protesters.
Demonstrators then briefly walked back into the police-designed "safe zone" before storming back in front of Gate 11 seconds later. From there, the activists marched into the street, blocking airport traffic and forcing walls of officers to follow them into the street.
At this point, MIA director Emilio T. Gonzalez was seen walking around the protest in a zip-up rain jacket and baseball cap, directing the cops. Gonzalez — Miami-Dade County's aviation director — is the former head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a section of the Department of Homeland Security.
The demonstrators finally shifted down to block off Departure Gate 9, where they remained for the next two hours. The mood remained tense. While the protesters continued to chant "Not my president!" and "No hate! No fear! Refugees are welcome here!" police cruisers continued to arrive. By 3:30, three police paddy wagons, used to transport detainees en masse, had parked in front of the demonstration.
Arrests felt imminent, but the protesters dispersed around 3:45 p.m. without anyone leaving in handcuffs. Instead, the event's organizers left people with a message: Show up at the February 7 Miami-Dade County Commission meeting to protest Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who became the first mayor in America to comply with Trump's sanctuary-city ban last week.

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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.