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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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  • titleist10
    January 30, 2017 at 6:34 p.m.

    22cal-I have contributed to the economy of the us for 70 years I served in the military for 3 years- I feel I have earned the right to reside in this country if you are so concerned about the refuges YOU SUPPORT THEM or YOU move to their country I paid my dues have you?

  • RBear
    January 30, 2017 at 6:42 p.m.

    deb, those were pretty dumb statements. As PM has pointed out, they have very successful jobs and have immigrated to our country legally to contribute to our nation's economy. But, this rally was on a Sunday so they were probably protesting on their day off (read the article and do a little thinking). To answer the second point, all of those banned were either in the country legally through LPR status or had valid visas after undergoing an extreme vetting process (a little fact Trump's folks don't tell you). Those visas were cancelled by DHS upon entry for no reason other than their country of origin.
    Please do your research before making dumb statements that can be easily slammed with a little research.

  • carpenterretired
    January 30, 2017 at 7:03 p.m.

    In cancelling TPP Trump gave China a great victory, now he has given ISIS and other Muslim bad guys an even greater victory (by playing ball in a religious war). As to protests sociopaths have a great need for approval so protests will work . In 1968 protests were so intense and prolonged that even LBJ threw in the towel ,today Trump could easily do a 180 degree flip-flop into Teddy Roosevelt ,but either way the joke is on Trump voters.

  • RBear
    January 30, 2017 at 8:16 p.m.

    titleist, you completely ignored my comment on the refugee support structure in our country. When I lived in San Antonio, my AA meetings were in the same Episcopal church on the NW side across from USAA that provided support for refugees, including classes, a community garden, and many other services. There are families that bond together to help them. It's like that all over the nation. No one is asking you to do anything more for them. In fact, I think they'll be helping subsidize your social security within a year as they become self-sufficient.

  • titleist10
    January 30, 2017 at 8:28 p.m.

    I believe the govt uses the TAX PAYERS $ to subsidize their welfare-If you are not aware the govt had no money-They get it from
    The people

    January 30, 2017 at 11:35 p.m.

    ISIS couldn't ask for a better recruiter than Drumpf.

  • RBear
    January 31, 2017 at 5:14 a.m.

    titleist, once again you don't have a clue on the refugee resettlement program. I would suggest spending some time researching it. There's this wonderful tool called Google, but if you're a Trump supporter you should be boycotting it because they oppose Trump's policy.

  • TimberTopper
    January 31, 2017 at 8:23 a.m.

    We've sure got something to be proud of now! Our POTUS has made Poster Boy for ISIS recruiter, using his executive order against taking in Muslims to the USA. WOW he made it almost two weeks before starting a religious war!

    titleist, the immigrants are not causing your SS increases to be small. There is a formula in place for that. Oh, and I'm over your 70 and wore the uniform longer, checkmate!