About 600 people gathered at the Boise Airport on Sunday afternoon to protest President Donald Trump’s executive order that barred citizens of select nations from entering the United States. Thousands of people across the country on Saturday night protested at airports where green-card holders were being detained.
The Boise protesters filled the second floor of the airport, wrapping around the rotunda to sing, chant and share stories from refugees. Travelers passing through seemed largely unfazed by the protest, if a little bemused. Some stopped to take photos or videos as they wheeled their luggage past.
There have been no reports of any detainees at the Boise Airport, which is a landing-rights airfield that requires special permission from customs to land any international flights. Currently, the airport does not have any scheduled international flights, and there have been no reports of detainees at other airports whose final destination is Boise.
Rachel Barros-Bailey, who created a Facebook event calling people to protest at the airport, said a local protest is meant as “a symbol of the major airports that would have to use the Muslim ban.” Barros-Bailey said she views Trump’s order, being called a “Muslim ban” by many, as “inhumane and unconstitutional.”
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“I wanted to show my support to Muslim immigrants and refugees who want to come to America,” she said. “We need to have human compassion in this time where the government’s try to judge.”
Many protesters held signs with messages of compassion for immigrants. Others, like Boisean Andrew Lynes, took on the Trump administration directly. Lynes held a poster-size printout of a tweet from Vice President Mike Pence from December 2015: “Calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. are offensive and unconstitutional.”
“It’s using their own words to help them see that this is a problem that really affects people,” said Lynes, who works directly with refugees through a Boise social work agency. “I’m a citizen, and I’m not sure if I would feel safe to do this otherwise.
Lynes pointed out that the vetting process for refugees is already rather intense, taking years to complete. He said that in four years working with splintered families, he has been able to successfully reunite only one minor child with their relatives.
“These people are real, and they have families and children and dreams — but they don’t have safety,” Lynes said.
Dr. Elizabeth Swearingen, who teaches human rights education at Boise State University, echoed Lynes’ statements.
“This post-9/11 frenzy of fear has fueled politics but the evidence doesn’t really back that up,” said Swearingen, whose specialty is in post-9/11 identity politics. “History has taught us that once fundamental human rights are dismantled, violence ensues.”
And though Idaho is a deeply red state, Swearingen said it’s also the only one in the nation where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is literally set in stone — at the Anne Frank Memorial on 8th Street.
Swearingen wasn’t alone in tying the Trump policy to the Holocaust. One man at the Boise airport held a sign stating that his parents had fled the Nazis during World War II, and he wanted other refugees to have the same opportunities his family had.
Hank Fraczek said his mother escaped Poland on the last ship out of Italy. His father, a Polish soldier, was in a military concentration camp and escaped Europe by stowing away on a Swedish vessel.
“My parents had an out,” Fraczek said. “Why should we deny others the same?”
Many at the protest held signs identifying themselves as immigrants. Twenty-year-old Patrick Luce’s sign read: “My brother and I were adopted from Haiti. Are we next, Mr. Trump?” Luce said he’s been in Boise for 18 years and loved seeing the turnout at the airport.
The demonstration was peaceful and largely unopposed — protesters said they hadn’t heard any dissenters, and Boise police and other law enforcement on the scene seemed relaxed.
Some protesters on Twitter expressed concern over security officials on the third floor of the rotunda who were taking photos of the crowd below. City of Boise spokesman Mike Journee told the Statesman that officials were “attempting to get an accurate count of people to ensure the rotunda can hold everyone and, if needed, redirect people to other areas.” The Boise Police Department tweeted the same thing.
The event comes on the heels of other protests in Boise. On Saturday, about 150 people gathered at the Statehouse to protest the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines. Last weekend, thousands of people rallied in Boise for the Women’s March.