Late January saw a series of mass protests across the US in response to President Trump’s immigration bans. The executive order he signed banned the entry of travellers from seven predominately Muslim countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It also limited the refugee intake and suspended the Refugee Admissions Program.
With the American Civil Liberties Union revealing that between 100 and 200 refugees had been detained by authorities, protesters congregated at airports in New York, Chicago, Washington DC, Boston, Newark, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle in solidarity with the detainees. In many cases mass sit ins were organised which caused mass disruption for airport authorities.
Impressively, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance also protested the ban, with its 19,000-member strong union ceasing work between 6pm and 7pm and refusing to service the huge JFK airport.
The union explained the work stoppage in a statement on Facebook: “As an organization whose membership is largely Muslim, a workforce that’s almost universally immigrant, and a working-class movement that is rooted in the defence of the oppressed, we say no to this inhumane and unconstitutional ban.”
As a result of these protests, the American Civil Liberties Union launched an emergency hearing at the US District Federal Courthouse. The hearing, which was the first of many against the executive order, led Judge Ann Donnelly to launch a temporary restraining order, which prevented refugees from being sent home.
She argued that the ban could cause “irreparable harm”. Clearly, she was influenced by the mood in society that the protests expressed.
The success of these protests shows how Trump’s reactionary agenda can be defeated. Through mass civil disobedience, and especially via workers withdrawing their labour, Trump’s laws can be turned into a dead letter. We need to see more of this type of action not just in the US but in Australia as well.
By Isobel Orford