At the height of the protests over President Donald Trump’s executive order that imposed a travel ban on seven Muslim countries, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) arrived at Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport and asked airport officials how many people were being detained at the airport as a result of the order.
Though the Trump Administration denied that the executive order was a “Muslim ban” it prohibits travel for refugees from Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Syria.
The Associated Press reported that, “A U.S. judge on Friday temporarily blocked President Donald Trump’s ban on people from seven predominantly Muslim countries after Washington state and Minnesota urged a nationwide hold on the executive order that has launched legal battles across the country.”
According to the Associated Press, “U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle ruled against government lawyers’ claims that the states did not have the standing to challenge Trump’s order and said they showed their case was likely to succeed.”
On December 7, 2015, Trump told a crowd in Mount Pleasant, S.C. that, “it’s common sense and we have to do it, remember the poll numbers. Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives figure out what the hell is going on.”
When Rep. Lewis arrived at Hartsfield, an official declined to give Lewis an answer on how many detainees were being held at the airport.
“Why don’t we just sit down and stay a while,” Congressman Lewis replied. He then sat in the terminal waiting for hours for an answer. Protests grew outside at Atlanta-Hartsfield, as Lewis waited, and at many international airports in major cities in the United States.
“This is a dark hour for America,” the legendary civil rights leader tweeted before he went to the airport.
Lewis loudly boycotted Trump’s inauguration and called him an “illegitimate President” in spectacular style. The furor over Lewis’ words would soon be drowned out by protests against the new President.
Lewis wasn’t the only Congressional Black Caucus member who unexpectedly ended up at the airport to protest Trump’s travel ban.
At John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Reps. Hakeem Jeffries and Yvette Clarke appeared hours after Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Nydia Valazquez (D-N.Y.) escorted Hameed Darweesh away from the airport after he had been detained for hours.
Despite all of the talk from the Trump Administration about the threat of terror and refugees coming into the U.S., Darweesh didn’t fit the administration’s new terror profile. Darweesh is an Iraqi who worked with the U.S. military in Iraq for 10 years. Trump’s executive order on travel, reportedly written by Stephen Miller, a 31 year-old former aide to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), barred Darweesh from entering the country when he arrived at the airport in New York City.
During protests at Dulles International Airport, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) showed up with a federal court order issuing a stay in Trump’s executive order that was to allow those detained at the airport to be freed; the officials at the airport reportedly did not comply.
Booker then wrote Department of Homeland Security Director Gen. John Kelly on the matter and spoke of the denial at the airport as a potential constitutional crisis.
Reps. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), and Don Beyer (D-Va.) also showed up during protests at Dulles International Airport. Rep. Scott had a lengthy discussion with law enforcement and other officials about whether or not people were being detained at the airport in accordance with Trump’s executive order. The airport officials refused to answer Scott’s questions.
Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she refused to enforce Trump’s immigration executive order. Many compared Yates’ firing to the 1973 “Saturday Night Massacre” during the Watergate scandal when President Nixon fired independent prosecutor Archibald Cox.
Within two weeks the Trump Administration has prompted major protests in the streets, a resurgence of activism on the left, talk of a constitutional crisis and the firing of a high level Department of Justice official. Last week, President Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in 2016.
Feature photo: Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) loudly boycotted Trump’s inauguration and called him an “illegitimate President” in spectacular style. This photo was taken during a press conference on police brutality in front of the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)
Lauren Victoria Burke, Contributor
Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist who analyses politics and justice reform. She created Crewof42.com, a blog that covers the work of African American members of Congress, in 2009. Ms. Burke has also been a staffer for the Senate Democratic Policy Committee and Director of Communications for Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN). She has had a very diverse career in politics and media and appears weekly on NewsOneNow with Roland Martin. She has also appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews, Politics Nation with Al Sharpton and Up with Steve Kornacki on MSNBC. She is also a contributing writer for NBCNews.com and TheRoot.com
Ms. Burke has also authored three books of photography including two on President Obama’s 2008 campaign for the presidency and one with Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee.
Ms. Burke was born in the Bronx, New York and grew up on Long Island. She holds a B.A. in History from The American University.