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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. - Photo by 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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  • 23cal
    January 30, 2017 at 10:19 a.m.

    titleist......if you don't want to take care of some of the refugees, perhaps you should move to a country which doesn't create so many of them. Where's that good old personal responsibility the right wing is always carrying on about?
    The way you have allowed your greed to eclipse your humanity is pathetic.

  • Packman
    January 30, 2017 at 10:49 a.m.

    It's refreshing to see an elected official actually doing what they promised to do on the campaign trail. Taking reasonable steps to protect Americans on American soil is a good thing. These protests are nonsense.
    Hey 23cal - Yea, and you can take all those protests and 1.75 and buy me a bag of popcorn to eat as I watch libs accomplish nothing. Do you support Roe V Wade, 23? If so, your comment about someone else's "humanity" is what's pathetic.
    Extreme vetting was one of the reasons Donald Trump was elected. If you libs keep your collective heads in the sand as to why he won, he will be re-elected to a second term.

  • GrimReaper
    January 30, 2017 at 10:58 a.m.

    I'm absolutely delighted to see these protest against Trump and I encourage those opposed to his policies to continue them as long as he is in office.

  • RBear
    January 30, 2017 at 11:50 a.m.

    titleist, a little information (that you actually could have Googled up if you cared to) regarding refugee resettlement. Some have paid for their resettlement, including finding a place to live, helping them get jobs (many have skills we desperately need), learn English, and become self-sufficient. In fact, that's a key stipulation of refugee resettlement. They have to become self-sufficient. So, to your weak point people do care about them so what's your point?
    Regarding the dangers of these, a Cato Institute study found that three classes of individuals being banned (LPRs, refugees, those seeking asylum) are the cause of less that 0.6% of the terrorist acts and none from the countries banned. Extreme vetting was put in place several years ago and it can take up to 2 years to enter the country. This was a solution looking for a problem that doesn't exist, upending the lives of people already in a hostile condition.
    What's bizarre is that this would have done nothing to prevent the attacks we have had on our soil. Do the research and prove me wrong.

  • HenryP
    January 30, 2017 at 12:20 p.m.

    700 people? That is 0.0004 of Arkansas' registered voters. In other words there were 3 times that many people at the UALR basketball game....

  • Happy1234
    January 30, 2017 at 1:02 p.m.

    I didn't know they had parking spots for camels.

  • BirdDogsRock
    January 30, 2017 at 1:48 p.m.

    Where is all the outcry against executive overreach, that was so prevalent against Obama's use of executive orders? Wonder how long Trump is going to keep going around his own Republican Congress, and how long it is going to put up with his unilateral actions?

  • deb1954
    January 30, 2017 at 4:39 p.m.

    Does any of these people have jobs?

  • deb1954
    January 30, 2017 at 4:41 p.m.

    If the immigrants were here legally do you think this would be happening? Ever think about that?

  • PopMom
    January 30, 2017 at 4:59 p.m.


    Many of these people have high paying jobs as doctors and engineers which is how they get green cards and work visas. Even the Syrian refugees have sponsors. ISIS is using this discrimination against Muslims as a recruitment device. I'm afraid it will work.