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story.lead_photo.caption Anya Ali (from left), Arooba Ilyas and Roshaneh Ali, all of Little Rock, hold signs and listen to speakers during an immigration rally at the state Capitol on Sunday. ( Mitchell PE Masilun)

Mary Melekian Richardson rallied at the Arkansas Capitol on Sunday in support of immigrants and Muslims because of her roots.

Her father fled to the United States in 1914 to escape the Armenian Genocide. Under an executive order like the one President Donald Trump signed Friday, she suspects her father never would have made it to the United States and would have likely been killed.

"It saddens me," she said. "These executive orders are coming from a place of hate."

Richardson, of Little Rock, was joined by a diverse crowd of about 700 that stretched from near the top of the State Capitol stairs down to the front lawn.

Christy Hendrickson Marquis and Sophia Said organized the "spontaneous, grassroots, citizen-led rally" late Saturday night, using Facebook to spread the word.

Photos by Maggie McNeary

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The rally, which lasted about an hour, renounced Trump's directive on immigration, which halted the U.S.' admission of refugees for four months, barred the entry of citizens from seven predominately Muslim countries for three months and indefinitely banned Syrian refugees from entering the country.

The White House instructions led to chaos at several U.S. airports, where immigrants and refugees named in the order were arriving. Some were detained; others were reportedly deported.

At Sunday's rally, about 10 speakers addressed the crowd, including state legislators, an Iraqi refugee, a Syrian refugee and a former Arkansas Supreme Court justice.

Between each speaker, the crowd chanted, "This is what democracy looks like."

Rita Sklar, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, encouraged any families affected by Trump's order in Arkansas to contact the ACLU.

The ACLU in New York challenged Trump's order, and a federal judge blocked portions of the directive, ruling that those being held at airports could not be deported.

"This is what democracy looks like," Sklar said. "But it also means contacting your congressmen and telling them this isn't what you want."

Photo by Mitchell PE Masilun
A crowd listens to speakers during a rally at the state Capitol on Sunday to protest President Donald Trump’s immigration order.

None of Arkansas' congressional delegation were among the handful of Republicans that criticized Trump's order over the weekend. U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Dardanelle, said in a statement that it wasn't a "religious test," and he thought most Arkansans supported the "common-sense measures."

"I doubt many Arkansans or Americans more broadly object to taking a harder look at foreigners coming into our country from war-torn nations with known terror networks; I think they're wondering why we don't do that already," Cotton said.

A 21-year Army veteran at Sunday's rally held a sign and stood near a man in a taqiyah -- the cap worn by Muslim men -- and a woman in a hijab. Afterward, he decried Trump's order as "driven by fear."

"This is not what I served for," Lee Zimmerman said.

Metro on 01/30/2017

Print Headline: 700 rally in LR to protest Trump executive orders


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Archived Comments

  • RBear
    January 30, 2017 at 6:04 a.m.

    Thank you to all those who came out in support of those affected by the ban. I really appreciate the community in Little Rock as it stands with hundreds of thousands across this nation in protest. Know that there are millions behind you who are just as outraged by this reckless and uncaring administration.

  • MS6321
    January 30, 2017 at 6:54 a.m.

    An allegory: We have. nice comfortable homes. We are warm in the winter and cool in the summer. We have worked for years to make our home a cozy refuge for us and our nuclear family. What if the government decided that I had to open my home (house) to anyone who needed shelter. After all, they could say, "you have a home and these unfortunate people do not." "Do you want these unfortunate people to sleep outside, in the cold and rain?" "What about the children of the unfortunate homeless?" You would be concerned about the health and safety of your own wife and children if strangers are sleeping in your midst. Unfortunately, on a practical level, it has to be "us or them" until a better plan is devised. Until then, may God help us all.

  • 23cal
    January 30, 2017 at 7:24 a.m.

    Protesters all over the world marching against Trump a week ago. Protesters in the streets again yesterday. Looks like we are well on the way to folks marching in the streets again like back in the 1960s.
    About " Unfortunately, on a practical level, it has to be "us or them" until a better plan is devised." No, it doesn't. So far we have brought in around 70,000 refugees per year and they haven't killed anyone. This is a cowardly excuse for a little religious discrimination by the people who are always patting themselves on the back about their "love". The stench of the hypocrisy, dishonesty, and cowardice is enough to gag a maggot.
    "When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt." Leviticus 19:33-34

  • PopMom
    January 30, 2017 at 7:39 a.m.


    We currently are enjoying a good economy and relative peace. To try to enrage 1.6 billion Muslims and our entire Southern border just doesn't make sense. One can better enforce immigration laws through enforcement and vetting. Trump's crudeness and bigotry are turning the entire world against us. He is a crazy disaster.

    January 30, 2017 at 7:41 a.m.

    The ban is not hateful. The problem of terror has to be dealt with. Refugees have committed acts of terror in Europe. The 911 hijackers checked the "I am not a terrorist" box.

  • dflamingo
    January 30, 2017 at 7:50 a.m.

    We should ask Cotton why he has changed his mind. Is he that afraid of Trump and Bannon? Remember when he was talking on Morning Joe: “Joe, I strongly disagree with that proposal and even Mr. Trump has begun to walk it back," the freshman Republican senator told MSNBC's "Morning Joe." In the end, though, we have to recognize that there is a small number of Muslims around the world who oppose Western civilization and want to launch terror attacks against us." December 9, 2015 Boozman said "Our country has never had a religious test for who we accept as citizens and it never should. Trump's proposal is not a serious plan it goes against everything our country and party stand for."

  • TimberTopper
    January 30, 2017 at 8:15 a.m.

    Jeaton, with the attitude you and those like you have, we'll have to change the wording of our National Anthem, to Land of the Free, and Home of The Cowards.

  • purplebouquet
    January 30, 2017 at 9:24 a.m.

    The outrage erupted in response to a ban for travelers who have ALREADY BEEN VETTED and who ALREADY HAVE VALID VISAS, even green cards (permanent resident permits), to enter the Unites States. As an immigrant myself, I can assure anybody who wants to know that immigration to this country is neither easy nor fast nor inexpensive nor guaranteed. For that reason, the fear that terrorists will flood this country without a travel ban is absurd.

  • drs01
    January 30, 2017 at 9:43 a.m.

    After over 30 years of just talking about immigrants we finally have a president who has taken action. Maybe NOW we can focus on a potential problem that has made Europeans so alarmed. Pissing and moaning about his technique in doing so hasn't changed the fact that immigration is a serious problem in this country. Now he has your attention!

  • titleist10
    January 30, 2017 at 9:44 a.m.

    People supporting the refuges should adopt them pay for their clothing food medical and give them shelter-don't use my tax money for them-my social sec went up $4 a month- my deductible up $13-refuges have paid Nothing into the system but receive benefits let the support them