Crowd takes to the street in Norfolk to protest Trump’s travel ban

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Solidarity Rally
Protesters gathered in Norfolk Monday night to rally against President Trump’s Executive Order to halt refugee admission to the United States. (Mariah Pohl)

Days after the announcement of a nationwide travel ban against citizens from Muslim-dominated countries, Lisa Suhay shared her support for other bans during a ‘solidarity rally’ Monday night in Norfolk.

“You want to ban something?” she said in response to President Trump’s Executive Order as she stood in front of the Norfolk Federal Courthouse, “Ban homelessness, ban poverty, ban hate and ban fear.”

Suhay, a children’s book author and founder of the Norfolk Initiative for Chess Excellence, attended the rally organized by Hampton Roads Young Democrats and Virginia Beach Young Democrats.

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Lisa Suhay addressed the crowd during the rally Monday night. (Mariah Pohl)

“I am a Christian and Methodist, yet every Friday I go to the mosque at Old Dominion University to pray, to learn, and to become part of the community that needs to become a greater part of our community,” Suhay said. “This is not about who you voted for, this is about choosing not to do harm to innocent people.”

The Executive Order, signed last Friday, has postponed citizen travel from seven countries for 90 days, barred refugee admission to the United States for 120 days, and halted Syrian refugees from entering the United States, indefinitely.

In some cases, the order has left American citizens and visa-holders, like one William & Mary student, stranded outside of the country.

Following the order, activists have descended upon airports and communities nationwide to protest the ban and demand legal action.

Suhay was just one of many who joined the rally in Norfolk to show support for those affected by the ban.

“We will not be be divided from our Muslim brothers and sisters,” she said. “We are indivisible.”

More than 100 people held signs, listened to speakers, and shouted chants like “No hate. No fear. Refugees are welcome here.”

Riley Justice joined her family in protesting the newly-enacted travel ban. Justice’s sign read ‘No hate – No fear – Refugees are welcome here.’ (Mariah Pohl)

For some, like nine-year-old Riley Justice and her family, it was their first protest.

“I’m trying to stop hate and stop Donald Trump,” Justice said as she held up her homemade sign to passing cars. “What if Donald Trump was a refugee? How would he like it if someone tried to keep him from coming here?”

Justice’s mother Daniela, who was born in Brazil, said she brought her children to the rally to show them the importance of exercising their rights as Americans.

“We are here because this is what we can do,” she said. “Seeing those people coming through the doors of the airport not knowing when they will see their families again really touched me. That could have been me.”

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Jonathan Bennett attended the Women’s March in Washington D.C. earlier this month, before taking part in the Solidarity Rally Monday. (Mariah Pohl)

Others protesters had been to their fair share of rallies.

Jonathan Bennett, who held up a sign saying “Love Trumps Hate,” said he attended the Women’s March in Washington D.C. last week.

“I want to keep that momentum going and do whatever I can to speak out to keep the world more loving and accepting,” he said. “It means a great deal to me that we don’t backslide with the progress we’ve made. We need to continue to move forward.”

Though protesters were largely against the policies of the new presidential administration, the rally was not without its opponents.

Norfolk Solidarity Rally
Billy Piffalo protested the Solidarity Rally Monday. (Mariah Pohl)

Billy Piffalo circled the rally circle with a homemade sign that said “Muslim ban = fake news”.

“There is no such thing as a Muslim ban,” he said. “The people spreading that message are intentionally trying to divide us. They are intentionally trying to rile people up and make them think they are fighting Nazis.”

Though Piffalo did not agree with the message of the rally, he said he supported their right to protest.

The rally is the first of two scheduled in the area this week.

On Tuesday, ODU Democrats plans to host a noon rally in front of the Webb Center.

Pohl may be reached at mariah@localvoicemedia.com