New Haven Marches to Support Refugees and Immigrants
February 7, 2017
Protesters marched from Wilbur Cross High School to the New Haven Green, in an effort to show their solidarity with refugees and immigrants.
Signs displayed messages such as “Build bridges, not walls,” and “No human being is illegal.”
The protesting was mainly directed towards President Donald Trump’s executive order involving immigration, signed on January 27th and immediately implemented. The order, a temporary ban on individuals from seven predominantly Muslim countries entering the United States, and a suspension of all refugee admissions for 120 days, proved to be an action of controversy.
“No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here,” was among the chants, as well as “Love, not hate, that’s what makes America great.”
The march succeeded the Annual Run for Refugees, a fundraising event which had occurred that morning. In its ninth year, the event consisted of a 5k run. Donations for the race totaled $152,000, and the participation of around 2,500 runners tripled last year’s attendance.
The race was organized by the Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS), an independent nonprofit agency assisting in refugee resettlement by providing access to health care, English lessons, and childcare. Based in Connecticut, IRIS has welcomed more than 5,000 refugees since its founding 34 years ago.
A cohort from the University of New Haven participated in the race, as well. Faculty members involved were Dr. Bradley Woodworth, Dr. April Yoder, Dr. Amanda Simson, Dr. Matthew Wranovix, Dr. Kristen Przyborski, Dr. Todd Jokl, Dr. Paulette Pepin, and Director Alan MacDougall. The group raised $1,340 for IRIS.
Unlike the race, the march required no registration, drawing in approximately 3,500 individuals.
The march was formed by Heba Gowayed, a doctoral student and Egyptian American volunteer at IRIS, as well as several other activists.
Individuals of differing genders, races, nationalities, and ages gathered to protest. Before the march began, announcements regarding safety were given in both English and Arabic, an action of inclusiveness.
A student of the Outstanding High School Seniors Program (OHSSP) at the University of New Haven discussed how the march reflected the attitudes of the city.
“The New Haven county is an amazingly diverse and welcoming community,” she said. “We value this and want to make sure that immigrants and refugees know that we support them. Immigrants have made and continue to make America great.”
Children attended the March, perched on the shoulders of their parents, sitting in strollers, or holding signs of their own.
Stephanie Stewart, who had brought several of her children, mentioned that one of her daughters assists in teaching a refugee and immigrant music class at Fairhaven Elementary School.
“When we heard about the new immigration policies and the halts on allowing people to come into this country, it was very upsetting to them,” she added. “I told them there was a march, and they wanted to make signs and come.”
Sandy, another mother, said, “I believe that we need to stand unified and express that we are a nation built on principles of respect and human rights.” She felt that hatred was attempting to permeate society, and it brought her hope that individuals were able to come together to show their disagreement.
The March resulted in a rally on the New Haven Green, where testimonies of refugee women and families were given.
Crowds of people, braving the cold with coats and gloves, stood on the green to listen to the speakers. Some protestors donned knitted pink, cat-eared hats termed “pussyhats” by the Pussyhat Project, an initiative first launched for the Women’s March on Washington, D.C.
A paper-mâché head in the likeness of President Donald Trump stood among the handwritten signs. Below it read, “My immigrant ancestors forgot to teach me tolerance, humility, compassion.”
Three refugee women spoke about their experiences in Arabic, with volunteers translating.
One of the women speaking was a Sudanese mother, who thanked the crowd for listening. She requested that refugees not be blamed for the actions of others, stating that the mark she and others carried was not voluntary. “Who would choose to become a refugee?” she asked. “Who would choose to lose everything, to have to seek refuge in their country?”
Another woman, Rawan, stated that her home country of Syria lost its peace and security, which forced her and her family to leave. She described refugees receiving medical treatment they needed in the United States, ranging from a cochlear implant to chemotherapy. “We love you. Thank you for your support,” she said in English, ending her speech.
Public officials such as Mayor Toni Harp of New Haven, U.S. Rep Rosa DeLauro, U.S. Sen. Blumenthal, and State Sen. Winfield also made short speeches.
Blumenthal stated that America was not only a beacon of hope, but was great due to the intellectuality and dedication of immigrants.
“We are a nation of immigrants,” Blumenthal said. “And we will win this fight.”