Arabs Organizing for the Liberation of All
On Saturday, January 28, one week after the historic women’s marches all over the country, we all woke up to the news that immigrants, students, refugees and tourists, were already being detained and deported under the “Muslim Ban” issued the day before. Using emergency response and activist networks, thousands poured into airports all over the country to say #NoBan #NoWall. In San Francisco, women leaders of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) stepped up to give the swelling crowds unity and focus. They skillfully led the crowd to spread out so that by early evening, it filled the international terminal with chants calling for global liberation, such as “From Palestine to Mexico, All the Walls Have Got to Go.”
When the demand for release of all the travelers was not met, AROC called for a shutdown of the airport on Sunday, and people responded. Again, women were at the front, working with lawyers to communicate with the people detained, talking to the media to spread clear messages, and galvanizing the crowd through supporting speakers from the banned countries to tell their stories, impromptu teach-ins, music, and direct action.
“It’s a time for a culture of resistance,” AROC’s Lara Kiswani told reporters. “The work now is to get the community to step up and be prepared… and really build across movements while Trump is in office.”
By Monday morning, with International Terminal gates shut down by the protests, federal judges had put the ban on hold, and all the known detainees were released.
When the most affected communities lead broad-based movements for liberation, the people win.
The idea for the January 21 Women’s March on Washington began with Facebook posts from Teresa Shook, a 60-year-old white woman in Hawaii, and Bob Bland, a white fashion designer in Brooklyn. Women started to sign up, but Shook and Bland were not equipped to convene a successful, broad-based coalition. The organizing for the march became contested, and could have been derailed. Fortunately, three veteran activists stepped in to provide multi-issue, community based leadership: Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory and Carmen Perez. The result was the largest day of protests in U.S. history.
Linda Sarsour, the 36-year-old former director of the Arab American Association of New York, spoke at the march in Washington, saying: “If you have come here today as your first time at a march, I welcome you. I ask you to stand and continue to keep your voices loud for black women, for Native women, for undocumented women, for LGBTQIA communities, for people with disabilities. If you want to know if you are going the right way, follow women of color, sisters and brothers. We know where we need to go, and we know where justice is.”
After the march, Sarsour was the target of a vicious campaign of anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian hate speech and threats. “The opposition cannot fathom to see a Palestinian Muslim American woman that resonates with the masses,” she wrote on Facebook.
People around the country responded with an outpouring of support for Sarsour, who also works with the police reform group the Justice League. #IMarchWithLinda went viral.
Solidarity Is Powerful. #MarchWithLinda #Resist
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