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
Click here for larger versions
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."
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