Community marches to protest travel ban

by Mika Jehoon Lee | 2/7/17 2:15am


Marchers gathered on the Green to sing Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land."

by Mika Jehoon Lee / The Dartmouth

Over 200 Dartmouth students, faculty and Upper Valley community members participated in the “Main Street March for Human Rights” on Feb. 4.

The march began at 12:45 p.m. on the Green. Participants in the march carried signs with messages such as “Inclusive Not Exclusive,” “The Problem is Ignorance, Not Immigrants” and “Impeach Bannon.” They walked down South Main Street, continued on South Street to Ramunto’s Brick and Brew before returning to the Green at 1:30 p.m. The marchers then formed a circle on the Green and sang Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” together.

Ronnie Lesser, a psychologist based in the Upper Valley and a co-host of the march, said she helped organize the event because she wanted to protest President Donald Trump’s recently enacted travel ban, which restricts immigration into the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries. The ban is currently suspended following the issuance of a temporary restraining order by U.S. District Judge James Robart, which was put into place in order to prevent those affected by the ban from suffering “irreparable harm” before its legality is determined, according to Robart’s ruling.

“I want to get people to be more aware of how unfair we are being to refugees and that we have to welcome people here,” Lesser said.

She added that she wishes to organize and partake in similar events in the future.

For some participants, the march was also a means to raise public awareness of individuals and groups at Dartmouth that have been affected by the travel ban.

“We have students who are having to choose between whether or not they want to continue to pursue their education and whether or not they want to be able to go home and see their family,” Michael Brown ’20 said. “That’s not a choice that anybody should have to make.”

Brown added that he was also frustrated with the College’s response to the executive order.

“Some of the other schools have taken [a] stance of ‘This goes against our values,’ ‘This goes against everything we stand for as an institution,’ and then Dartmouth is just, ‘Hey, don’t travel,’” Brown said. “I would appreciate a little bit more of a firmer stance.”

Ruth Hunter, a member of Quaker faith community Hanover Friends Meeting, said that the group has been supportive of the Muslim community on campus by attending their potlucks and their services on Friday evenings. The march, according to Hunter, was also a way for her to show her support for Muslims at Dartmouth.

Thayer School of Engineering student Saaid Arshad ’14 Th’18, who held up a sign that said, “Build Bridges, Not Walls” during the march, said that as a Muslim American, the travel ban and the new administration directly affected his community negatively. He added that it felt great to see so many people at the march showing solidarity with people that feel threatened by the new administration.

Arshad said that he wishes to see both short-term and long-term actions in the future.

“Solutions like the federal judge putting a temporary halt on the executive order are at least the short term gains I would like to see,” he said. “Long term, it’s just making sure that these kinds of very, very harmful policies aren’t able to pass as easily and [that] eventually they can be overturned.”

English professor William Craig said that he decided to march because he was concerned about the direction that the United States was going in. According to Craig, he believes there will be more protests both within the Upper Valley community and nationwide during Trump’s presidency.

“This community, for instance, protested the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but there was not as much sustained protest as I already have seen in the Trump presidency,” Craig said. “So I suspect that this is just the beginning of something that is happening all around the country as people share their fear that our governmental system is in peril.”