Protesters with a sign

Immigration ban stirs Toronto protesters

What was supposed to be a small gathering turned into hundreds outside the U.S. consulate, as Torontonians protested Trump’s travel ban

When Dave Meslin could not fly out to JFK airport to oppose the travel ban in the U.S. on Saturday, he went to Facebook and started to organize a small sit-in outside the U.S. consulate in Toronto.

Over the next two days it kept growing online.

By 8 a.m. on Monday, hundreds of people had assembled near the consulate on University Avenue.

It was a tremendous support for ideals that he and others held in the face of U.S. president Donald Trump’s actions, Meslin said.

“We want to live in a more compassionate society with people who trust each other, love each other and welcome each other, instead of building division, fear and hatred,” he said.

The protesters were reacting to Trump’s executive order signed Friday afternoon, banning the entry of visa and dual citizenship holders from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen into the U.S. for 90 days. It also suspends the entry of refugees from those seven Muslim-majority states for 120 days.

The chants of “justice for immigrants” and “freedom for refugees” erupted from the crowd, as it moved in front of the consulate.

“It is not enough to sit at home quietly and read the newspaper, you have to get involve with groups who are fighting back and taking a stand,” Meslin said. “It is really important for people not to be silent.”

Demonstrator holding sign
Demonstrator sit for moment of silence at Jan. 30 protest.  (ANNA BOYES/TORONTO OBSERVER)

The police barricaded the consulate and monitored the intersections to ensure the protesters’ safety.

The immediate implementation of the travel ban came as a shock, leaving many baffled.

“I was so surprised he actually got away with it,” Suban Farrah said.

Farrah, 16, called the ban personal because her Somali-American father is unable to return to the United States.

“It is not enough to sit at home quietly and read the newspaper, you have to get involve with groups who are fighting back by taking a stand,” Meslin said. “It is really important for people not to be silent.”

The protesters also gathered at Nathan Phillips Square where Councillor Joe Cressy addressed them, before heading back to the consulate.

The U.S Consulate sent a press release stating that due to the protest they would be “temporarily suspending services.”

Walied Khogali, who helped organize the protest, led a moment of silence for the victims killed at a Quebec City mosque.

Trinity College student Shubhi Sahi said, “It honestly gave me faith in humanity again seeing that there are always going to be people who stand up against [Trump]. It is amazing.”