When Donald Trump signed an executive order last Friday banning people from seven majority Muslim countries from entering the United States, Seattle and Washington state fought back. In doing so, local government agencies also faced challenges related to facilitating protest. This article will attempt to touch on what will surely be a constantly developing story of national security, religious persecution, immigration and humanity.
Trump capped off his first week in office by signing an executive order on Friday, Jan. 27, that bars Syrian refugees indefinitely, suspends all other refugee admissions for 120 days and banned all non-U.S. citizens from entering the country from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Yemen on any visa category for 90 days.
This resulted in detainments at airports across the United States over the weekend, including two men from Yemen and Sudan, who were released early Sunday from Sea-Tac International Airport. This was after the Department of Homeland Security issued a statement that it would comply with an emergency restraining order issued by U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly blocking their deportation, according to the Seattle Times. The order had been requested by the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. A hearing is set for 10 a.m. Feb. 3.
The threat of nationwide deportations of travelers who arrived in the United States with valid visas under the executive order was blocked Saturday night by U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly. The temporary stay of execution does not apply to the indefinite ban on Syrian refugees waiting to enter the country through the state department’s resettlement program.
Trump, who is still using his private Twitter account attached to a private email server, tweeted this on Saturday: “If the ban were announced with a one week notice, the ‘bad’ would rush into our country during that week. A lot of bad “dudes” out there!”
Following this weekend’s protests, Trump fired acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates on Monday for telling Justice Department lawyers not to defend the president’s order on immigration and refugees. Dana Boente, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, replaced her.
“The acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States,” according to a White House statement. “This order was approved as to form and legality by the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel.
“Ms. Yates is an Obama Administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.”
State Attorney General Bob Ferguson made Washington the first state to file a lawsuit against the president, administration officials and Homeland Security, requesting the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington declare portions of Trump’s executive order as unconstitutional.
“The President’s Executive Order of January 27, 2017 (“the Executive Order”), is separating Washington families,” the complaint states, “harming thousands of Washington residents, damaging Washington’s economy, hurting Washington-based companies, and undermining Washington’s sovereign interest in remaining a welcoming place for immigrants and refugees.
Ferguson is also seeking injunctive relief, to stop the executive order’s implementation.
Hours after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and other state and local government officials held a news conference at the airport Saturday to express outrage at Trump’s executive order and promise legal recourse, local protesters made their way to Sea-Tac to demand the release of detained travelers there.
Some were forced to walk there from the Tukwila International Boulevard Station on Jan. 28, after Sound Transit stopped service to the airport at the request of Port of Seattle law enforcement officials. Normal service returned around 7 p.m., about 30 minutes after the stoppage.
King County Executive Dow Constantine, who had been among the party of elected officials that had earlier denounced Trump’s executive order, tweeted at 8 p.m. Saturday: Light rail should run when and where people need it, and request to stop should go up to senior level.
That was made clear on Monday — as the county executive had promised in a follow-up tweet over the weekend — when Sound Transit and King County Metro, which operates light rail service under contract, issued a joint news release stating a formalized protocol had been developed. That protocol states senior leadership at Sound Transit and Metro will review all future requests by law enforcement to interrupt transit service during protests.
Constantine reported Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff restarted light rail service to the airport Saturday night, prior to the executive contacting him about the suspension.
There were more than 30 arrests during the airport protest on Saturday, with a number of people being pepper sprayed.
“Unfortunately, protestors are blocking security checkpoints and exits to impede travelers and shut the airport down according to their own announcements,” the Port of Seattle stated in an early Sunday Facebook post. “Despite repeated efforts to urge protestors to disperse, police officers have been forced to make a number of arrests to maintain safe operations for passengers and employees.”
Posts of the arrests and use of pepper spray during the protest blew up on social media, with criticism being directed at Seattle and Port of Seattle police officers. The Seattle Police Department made an online blotter post Sunday afternoon, stating none of its officers used pepper spray or made arrests at the airport. The Port of Seattle is reportedly reviewing its response.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray issued a statement Monday regarding “misinformation” about the 29 SPD officers that provided Port of Seattle officers with mutual aid during the protest.
Seattle is still working with the Department of Justice to satisfy a consent decree the city entered in 2012, after a DOJ investigation found a pattern of excessive force and biased policing. Murray’s letter states the city needs to continue the improvements it has made in the past three years.
“That is why later this week, my office will transmit legislation to the Council on police accountability reform, which will aim to create the most civilian-driven accountability process in our city’s history,” the statement reads.
Regularly scheduled protest
A #NoBanNoWall protest that had been scheduled in advance, and included speakers like Seattle councilmembers Lorena Gonzalez and Kshama Sawant and Washington Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib, went more smoothly on Sunday, Jan. 29.
Habib, the son of Iranian immigrants, spoke out against Trump and the Muslim ban. The lieutenant governor has added a resources page for those affected by the president’s executive order.
“I am telling Donald Trump I am every bit as American as he is, and so is everyone here today,” Habib told the massive crowd in Westlake Park.
The Al Halabi family, Syrian refugees living in Tukwila, also made comments during the protest. Parents Ahmad and Imtithal — with help from an interpreter — spoke about how their two grown children that would not be able to fly in to see them on Monday. One of them is pregnant. Imtithal said she wants to be there for her daughter when the baby comes. KUOW has an in-depth story on the Al Halabi family here.
As a number of speakers were still set to go on, a large march left Westlake around 7 p.m., eventually making its way to Cal Anderson Park in Capitol Hill, where there was a moment of silence for the victims in the Quebec City mosque shooting earlier that evening, followed by more speaking and then a meet-up with a formal march back downtown.
The alleged shooter is 27-year-old Canadian Alexandre Bissonnette, who has been reported as being anti-Muslim, pro-Israel and anti-feminist, and also a Trump supporter.
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