A coalition of immigrant, religious, labor, and humanitarian organizations declared New York “A City of Refuge” as they kicked off 24-hours of action in defense of refugees today in Downtown Manhattan.
Activist groups coordinated by African Communities Together (ACT) gathered for a rally in front of the Trump building at 40 Wall Street around noon before marching to Trinity Church, where they held an interfaith prayer service. The groups then hosted a series of teach-ins and cultural jams on the premises. A number of activists will stay the night in a makeshift “Tent City” on the grounds to simulate the experience of sleeping in a refugee camp. The 24-hours will end on Wednesday noon with a rally at Foley Square.
ACT called the action in response to President Trump’s sweeping executive orders and subsequent memoranda on US immigration policy, which the organization claims are having a devastating effects on humanitarian-based immigration relief.
Ben Beers, an ACT volunteer who will be staying overnight in Tent City, said: “It’s trying to highlight the necessity to continue to treat refugees as human beings. Everyone has human rights, and there are laws in this country that are built in order to protect those people, to treat them in a dignified way.”
Vassar College associate professor Zachariah Mampilly, 39, gave a speech on US foreign policy in Africa and how it drives refugees to US shores as part of the evening’s program of events.
“We’re just trying to understand refugees as political actors, as people who are not simply victims but are constructing alternate political and social futures for all of us. I think there has generally been a disinterest in African political and social movements, and a disconnect between outrage around Trump’s policies towards the US and what is happening in Africa,” he told The Upstander.
“In many ways, Africa is the future in terms of what we may be confronting here in the US. I’ve learnt a tremendous amount by studying African political movements and I think there are direct lessons we can take from the ways in which African peoples have been resisting their own governments. There are features of the current administration that resemble African autocracy at its worse, and who better to learn how to take down a dictator from than people who have been dealing with it for generations?” he added.
Two vocal Trump supporters picketed Trinity Church in the early evening in protest of the event, with one chanting: “Support President Trump, enforce the travel ban” and implying that loose border controls were responsible for the last week’s act of terrorism in London. The perpetrator of that attack, Khalid Masood, was born and raised in Britain.
The groups supporting “A City of Refuge” include: Families for Freedom, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, the NY Taxi Workers Alliance, the Urban Justice Center and Human Rights Watch.
Photo Credit: African Communities Together/Ed Goldman