Protesters at the anti-travel ban rally, many from New York and the Washington suburbs, carried American flags and signs that read "We Muslims Love America" and "Build a Wall Around Trump." Picture: Ricky Carioti
Washington - Muslim Americans had planned to gather in the nation's capital to protest President Donald Trump's latest travel ban on Wednesday, the day it was scheduled to go into effect.

But late Tuesday, a federal judge in Hawaii blocked its implementation, saying that it "plainly discriminates based on nationality." A federal judge in Maryland early Wednesday issued a second halt to portions of the ban.

Protesters briefly celebrated, then took to the streets Wednesday afternoon to demonstrate as planned. The ban didn't go into effect, but protesters said the fight is far from over.

The majority-Muslim group gathered near the White House before marching to the Trump International Hotel and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection headquarters, shutting down Pennsylvania Avenue and booing at the hotel along the way.

"The news of [Tuesday] was obviously exciting. It's a victory, but it's not the battle," said Isra Chaker, a campaign adviser at the nonprofit Oxfam America, which was part of a coalition that organised the protest. "We need to be able to keep the energy high and voice our disapproval of whatever version of the Muslim ban this administration comes up with."
Yemeni-born immigrant Mohamed Alsaidi of New York - his face painted as American and Yemeni flags - is among the protesters at a rally in Washington against President Trump's new travel ban. Picture: Ricky Carioti


The White House defended its ban Tuesday and decried the Hawaii judge's ruling as "dangerously flawed."

"These restrictions are vital to ensuring that foreign nations comply with the minimum security standards required for the integrity of our immigration system and the security of our nation," the White House said in a statement.

Protesters, many from New York and the Washington suburbs, carried American flags and signs that read "We Muslims Love America" and "Build a Wall Around Trump." They chanted "No hate, no fear, Muslims are welcome here," and "This is what America looks like." One woman donned a hijab with the American flag printed on it.

They said the president's rhetoric and actions are harmful to Muslim Americans and other minority communities.

"We're citizens so we don't have to worry about us, but we have to worry about our families still in Yemen who want to come here," said Fahini Lutf, a 36-year-old grocery store owner from the Bronx. "We're afraid because every time, there's a new [travel ban] law."

An organizer said that first- and second-generation immigrants from most of the countries Trump tried to ban from traveling to the United States - Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Chad, Somalia, North Korea and Venezuela - attended the rally.

Abdulwarf Muslah was 17 when he came to the United States from Yemen in 1997. He now owns a bodega in New York and said the ban doesn't represent the ideals he associates with this country.

"We know this country is for immigrants, this country is for freedom for everyone," he said. "My favorite word is 'God Bless America.' "

The rally included speakers who explained how the travel ban would affect their communities and what the United States means to them. A Jewish speaker said, "Any Muslim ban is an insult to me as an American and a Jew."

Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian American who helped plan the Women's March in January and works with grass-roots Muslim advocacy group MPower Change, said, "The biggest threat to a white supremacist agenda is solidarity and unity."

Mona Sala arrived in the United States from Jordan four months ago on a temporary visa and said she hopes to live here permanently in the future. She said the president's ban was unjust and she wanted to support the Muslim American community she has found in the United States.

"This is a nonsense law," she said. "It doesn't make sense to ban a whole country."

The Washington Post