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Thousands protest second day against Trump travel ban

Monday, January 30, 2017 - 06:36

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Thousands of protesters demonstrated in the United States for a second day Sunday against Donald Trump's ban on travellers from seven Muslim countries as the world responded with outrage and judges issued temporary stays in at least four states.

[WASHINGTON] Thousands of protesters demonstrated in the United States for a second day Sunday against Donald Trump's ban on travellers from seven Muslim countries as the world responded with outrage and judges issued temporary stays in at least four states.

A crowd of several thousand gathered in New York's Battery Park, across the harbour from the Statue of Liberty - America's famed beacon of freedom and immigration - while thousands more descended on the White House.

There were further protests in Boston's Copley Square as activists scheduled rallies at airports and cities nationwide, including Los Angeles, Atlanta, Kansas City, Baltimore, Denver and Seattle.

Mr Trump signed the executive order on Friday, suspending the arrival of all refugees for at least 120 days, Syrian refugees indefinitely and barring citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days.

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While Mr Trump has cited the Sept 11, 2001 attacks as justification for his move, he did not target any of the 9/11 hijackers' home countries - Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The order affected dual nationals from European allies, but not British, Canadian or US dual passport holders. On Sunday, the White House rowed back on green card holders already on the path to US citizenship, denying they were affected.

Travellers were detained at US airports, splitting families - such as a father unable to reach his son's wedding, and a grandmother unable to meet her grandchildren - and officials warned it was a "gift to extremists".

Six Syrians were turned away from Philadelphia International Airport and sent back to Lebanon, an official at Beirut airport told AFP on Sunday.

The ban was criticised by European allies, sowed alarm in affected countries and at home sparked a furious backlash from Democrats demanding it be overturned and by Sunday, growing unease from certain Republican lawmakers.

In New York, which for centuries has been a gateway for immigrants, protesters held up signs saying "Resist" and "We are all immigrants" while chanting "No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here."

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has called the order "un-American" told the rally that 17 people were still being detained at New York's John F Kennedy International Airport.

"No fear, no hate that's what makes America Great," chanted demonstrators outside the White House - the second consecutive weekend that both New York and Washington have seen loud protests against the new US president.

Judges in New York, Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington states - which all host major international airports - ruled over the weekend to block parts of Mr Trump's executive order, preventing authorities from deporting people who had been detained.

But Mr Trump - the real estate billionaire turned Republican commander-in-chief - appeared unrepentant, defending his policy in the face of growing outrage across the globe and from Americans at home.

"Christians in the Middle-East have been executed in large numbers. We cannot allow this horror to continue!" he tweeted to his nearly 23 million followers, making no mention of Muslims who have been killed in greater numbers.

"Our country needs strong borders and extreme vetting, NOW. Look what is happening all over Europe and, indeed, the world - a horrible mess!"

While his chief of staff Reince Priebus backpedalled over the inclusion of green card holders, he stressed that anyone - US citizens included - travelling back and forth to countries on the list would be subject to further screening.

"This is something that 75 per cent, 80 per cent of Americans out there agree with," he insisted.

Many of the cities where demonstrations took place did not vote Mr Trump into office.

Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, called for greater clarity, telling AFP there was a "tremendous amount of confusion". There are more than one million Iranians living in the United States.

The order - seemingly implemented without prior coordination with airport authorities and foreign allies - led to around 300 travellers being stopped or detained worldwide after taking effect.

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer said he had been told 42 people remained in detention Sunday. Top Trump aides downplayed the number as "a couple of dozen". The Department of Homeland Security agreed to comply with court orders not to deport people, but said it would otherwise continue to enforce the order.

Mr Trump inflamed further disquiet by giving controversial adviser Steve Bannon, a founding member of far-right website Breitbart News, a permanent seat on the National Security Council, apparently at the expense of security chiefs.

The director of national intelligence and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will instead attend "where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise" are discussed, an executive memorandum read.

The travel ban followed one of Mr Trump's most controversial campaign promises, to subject travellers from Muslim-majority countries to "extreme vetting" - which he declared would make America safe from "radical Islamic terrorists".

The partial stays did not broach the constitutionality of Mr Trump's order, which could ultimately set up a battle in the Supreme Court, which has not ruled on this type of immigration issue since the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act.

Republican Senator John McCain told CBS's "Face the Nation" that Mr Trump's move could give extremist groups "more propaganda".

He joined his colleague Lindsey Graham in a joint statement warning the order would become "self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism".

In key counterterrorism partner Iraq, there were calls for a reciprocal ban on US citizens. Sudan summoned the US charge d'affaires to protest.

Oscar-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi also announced that he would boycott next month's Academy Awards, for which he was nominated, comparing the ban to the actions of hardliners in his own country.

AFP

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