Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Protesters at the Portland International Airport

This past weekend I was in Portland, Oregon for a friend’s engagement. It was a wonderful time, and I enjoyed the beautiful city and kind people that live in the Portland area. Unfortunately, the time for me to return to Nebraska came on Sunday as I headed for the airport to catch my 6:50 flight to Omaha. I was on the train to the airport when I first heard about the protesting that was happening at the airport, but it wasn’t until I arrived and saw it for myself that I fully grasped what was going on.
            As I sure all of you know, President Donald Trump passed an executive order this Friday banning all refugees from entering the country for 120 days, travelers from seven Muslim-Majority Nations for 90 days, with the Ban on Syrian travelers being indefinite. The outcry and criticism for the ban was almost immediate. Advocacy groups began legal challenges on the premise that the order was discriminatory towards Muslims, and protesters took to the airports to show their distaste for the order. Our own University put forward a public statement showing their support for the international students at the University of Nebraska, including the hundred or so students hailing from those seven countries being barred travel into the United States (Check out the statement made my Nebraska here https://t.co/VpSko0CrbE ).
            Well, when I arrived at the airport I was met by 300 or so protesters voicing their distain and opposition for Trumps executive order. I’d never seen a large scale protest before. I had been working (unfortunately) during the Women’s March in Lincoln, and had only experienced a protest from the other side of a TV or laptop screen.
It was loud.
Really loud.
My first view was of a large crowd standing in front of the stairwell and escalators leading up to the Check-in gates and security. There were protesters riding up and down the escalators chanting phrases like “Let them in!” and “No ban, No wall!”. I was in awe of the number of people that were demonstrating their political opinions in such a powerful and effective way. I was honestly super stoked to see all of the people there, Heck I began chanting as well as I worked my way through the crowd.
            The problem was that it took me a lot longer to get to the check-in gates and security than I would have liked. The protesters, whom I supported, were inhibiting my ability to reach my flight in a timely manner. Now, the protesters were using a form a rhetoric that has historically been effective in bringing attention to the issue, but had not been the most effective of creating social or political change. Their argument and their emotions were becoming one, and their message was beginning to be blurred by the simple fact that they were preventing people from reaching their flights. Which is an excellent form of symbolism, just not in the eyes of those who were trying to catch their flights. I agreed with the protesters, I supported the protesters, but their rhetoric was doing more harm than good.
            I think that their argument was valid and a stead fast. I believe that the executive order is wrong and unconstitutional. However, I feel that the protesters means of sending their message was flawed and could be done in a better manner. In my opinion, a more effective way of sending the message of disapproval for the order to President Trump would be a large scale boycott of air travel. This boycott, if done on a large enough scale, throughout the entire nation, would plummet the airlines income and force the President to repeal his order and find a different way to “protect the nations boarders”. Alas, that is just what I believe would be a more effective way to protest the order.
            It was a very interesting experience seeing people exercise their first amendment right of free speech, and was an inspiring moment to see so many people come together to try to support those who need the most help; Refugees. Seeing this form of rhetoric was something that you don’t see very often in Nebraska, and it was definitely something that I’ll never forget.   



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