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On The Ground At No-Ban Protests Around The Country

This is what democracy looks like

On Friday, President Trump issued an executive order banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for 90 days, and halting the entrance of Syrian refugees indefinitely. Like so many of you, MTV News staffers and contributors gathered across the country this weekend to protest this deeply troubling display of intolerance and Islamophobia, and to send a message to the Trump administration — and to the world — that America must keep its arms open.

Here's what they saw.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

The rain had broken and the weather was warm. Palm trees towered in the distance. The only thing missing from the quintessentially Californian protest outside Terminal 4 of Los Angeles International Airport was rank, industrial-strength weed smoke.

As it was, the impromptu crowd was happy and vibrant and smallish. The battle of the day had concluded before the sun set on the West Coast — with the federal court rulings in Brooklyn and Boston — and there was a palpable sense of having drawn blood for the first time. People smiled as they shouted. A drummer (can someone please explain why there is always a drummer?) banged loudly. The chants were a happy K-tel Greatest Hits mix:

No Trump! No KKK! No Fascist USA!

Black! Lives! Matter!

AC-LU! AC-LU!

RE-SIST! RE-SIST!

There was only one new addition and it was hollered over and over and over again: “Let them in! Let them in!”

The commotion made it easy to miss what was going on inside the airport itself, but the curious soon began to peek past the sliding doors. There, a knot of attorneys huddled, a tangle of cell phone charging cords at their feet and a murmur of quiet urgency about everything they did. Dozens of families were still trapped at customs in the belly of LAX. And as those damned drums pounded in the distance, legal teams quietly worked away.

Word slowly got out among the protesters about what was happening inside. And as the crowd morphed — new arrivals sliding in seamlessly to replace folks who had to go home to kids, a night shift, or simply weekend plans — the placard-holders made a pilgrimage into the terminal before departing. One by one they lined up in front of the group of lawyers fighting for the trapped citizens and green card holders inside to say one thing:

“Thank you. Thank you thank you thank you.” DAN FIERMAN

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QUEENS, NEW YORK

The crowd had been building all day at JFK's Terminal 4. By 5:30 p.m., it was a sprawling mass in the parking lot across from the arrivals exit that spanned upward from the open-air lot to the roof of the third-floor parking structure next door. "This is what democracy looks like!" "No ban! No wall!" "No hate! No fear! Refugees are welcome here!" The crowd chanted over and over, these rallying cries that have become so familiar.

Inside Terminal 4, things were largely proceeding as normal, except for the video crews and civilians who were heading to the outskirts of Queens for a protest instead of a flight. As evening came on, the flood of humanity exiting public transportation to JFK carried more posters than luggage; later, the Port Authority would try to restrict passengers to just those with airplane tickets (a measure that New York governor Andrew Cuomo would overturn).

This immediate proximity to where travelers were being detained cast an even more urgent, emotional weight on the protests. Cars stuck in the routine traffic of the intra-airport roadway joined in — honking in support, rolling down windows to join in chanting. One passenger raised himself out of his car's sunroof in support. "Fuck Trump!" he called to cheers. —ERICA FUTTERMAN

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DALLAS, TEXAS

There was little hope and less information in Terminal D of the Dallas–Fort Worth International Airport on Saturday night as family and friends of nine travelers on a flight from Dubai tried to figure out anything they could about the detentions prompted by an executive order from President Donald Trump.

The local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations put out a call on its Facebook page for supporters to show up at the terminal, and they began to arrive by the dozens Saturday afternoon and evening. Overnight the numbers dwindled, but by Sunday morning protesters began to arrive again. By Sunday afternoon the crowd had swelled into the hundreds.

They were joined by more than 100 attorneys working to try to secure the release of at least nine people detained from the Dubai flight. Their legal efforts were hampered by Customs and Border Protection officers who refused to allow attorneys to speak to the detainees.

“CBP does not appear to be complying with a lawful order of the courts,” said attorney Chris Hamilton in reference to a Brooklyn judge’s order on Friday night to immediately release all of those detained by Trump’s executive order.

Despite the order, Khaled Abdaan continued to wait on Sunday afternoon with his daughter for the release of his mother, 77-year-old Siham Abaas, who was traveling from Baghdad for her visit to the United States. Abdaan stood with others who waited for the release of their loved ones in a hallway not far from where hundreds of protesters were gathered in the terminal, chanting and holding signs. Inside the room behind him, attorneys worked on legal petitions they hoped would secure the release of the remaining detainees.

“I am just hoping,” Abdaan said. “I am just hoping to see her soon.” —JUSTIN GLAWE

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BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS

Around 7:30 on Saturday night, a small group of protesters had gathered in the international arrivals terminal of Boston’s Logan Airport. “Let them in!” the group shouted, roughly 150 strong. At the time it wasn’t exactly clear if there was anyone being detained in Boston — we’d later learn that a pair of Iranian national green card holders, professors at UMass Dartmouth, were indeed being interrogated nearby — but the massive protest at New York’s JFK and other airports had spurred Boston residents into action. Steadily, the crowd grew, with protesters greeting confused passengers arriving through customs with all manner of signs — “No Borders No Fronteras,” read one. Others read “Hate Has No Home Here” and “Orange is the new [swastika].”

Within an hour, the crowd had doubled. Then doubled again. By the time Boston city councilor Tito Jackson and Senator Elizabeth Warren arrived to speak, it approached 2,000 people. “We will not turn away children,” Warren said, leading the crowd in a call-and-response chant. “We will not turn away families … We will not turn away anyone because of their religion.”

Outside, the police — gathered by the dozens — had shut down the road leading to the arrivals terminal due to the overwhelming presence of protesters. “This is what democracy looks like!” the group carried on inside. Hours later, in the middle of the night, a Massachusetts federal judge granted a temporary restraining order on President Trump’s ban. They let them in. —LUKE O'NEIL

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CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

Protesters mobilized seemingly out of nowhere at O'Hare International Airport on Saturday night. But, of course, it wasn’t out of nowhere. It was a testament to Chicago’s long history of activist organizing. In a dramatic and peaceful show of force to protest Donald Trump's abrupt executive order barring immigrants from entering the country, an estimated 3,000 people packed the airport and surrounding pickup lanes. Caught in limbo just inside were 17 people held for questioning, including one baby born in the United States.

A large pool of attorneys offered pro bono legal aid to urgent chants of "No hate! No fear! Refugees are welcome here!” while outside, a handful of speakers addressed the crowd in sub-freezing temperatures. Elected officials from the state, county, and local levels were present, including five aldermen.

Perhaps most impressive was the speed and magnitude of the demonstration, announced just hours earlier by the Arab American Action Network. Arriving by car and jam-packed public transportation, most protesters had to catch airport trams to the far-flung reaches of International Terminal 5. The additional travel was not a deterrent. To the visible astonishment of Chicago police and airport employees, people kept coming. And coming. Within an hour, the crowd swelled large enough to block all incoming and outgoing traffic to Terminal 5 while a separate march continued indoors.

Later in the evening, the ACLU announced news of the stay to an eruption of cheers, though hundreds of people remained until all detainees were released, around 10:30 p.m. —CHRISTOPHER JOBSON

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ATLANTA, GEORGIA

I didn't see it, but I heard it, and then I smelled it. At Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta, where somewhere around 5,000 protesters demonstrated against President Donald Trump's executive order regarding immigration, someone in a convertible muscle car did a burnout to show their support — a full, tire-melting burnout, with two protesters sitting in the backseat with signs as the smoke curled up and over the crowd. The stench of burning rubber lingered for at least 15 minutes.

Starting at around 4 p.m. there were speakers, local activists, Muslim leaders, and politicians. They posted up on the edge of a parking deck overlooking the stretch of road police had blocked off for the demonstration, and did their best to be heard over the roaring of planes and the chants of protesters across the arrivals lane who, while chanting "TINY HANDS AND TINY FEET/ ALL HE DOES IS TWEET TWEET TWEET," could hear nothing going on across the way. The visual effect seemed to be enough: Cars picking up and dropping off passengers crept through slowly, bookended on either side by a solid wall of signs that read "REDNECKS AGAINST XENOPHOBIA" and "Y’ALL MEANS ALL."

Fifth District Representative and civil rights legend John Lewis was there, as well as DeKalb County representative Hank Johnson and state senator Vincent Fort. Missing were either of Georgia's two Republican senators, who have so far been completely silent on the issue of the Trump administration's unvetted throttling of the refugee pipeline and suspension of travel admissions for seven predominantly Muslim countries.

The protest lasted about two hours, and yielded no reported arrests. The last thing I saw when leaving was a man in an F-350 towing a gyro food truck blasting "God Bless America" and blowing kisses to the crowd. —SPENCER HALL

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

At 7:35 p.m., Cadman Plaza, outside the Brooklyn courthouse, was quiet. The crowd was awkward. Two girls were dancing to keep warm, and on either side of them men were bouncing from foot to foot. Bodies seem uncertain when lips are closed.

By 7:40 p.m., the first chants started, tentatively: Let them stay. Let them stay. Let them stay. It was still quiet, but at least there was ambient noise. A woman used a sawed-off pylon as a megaphone. The chant held for one beat too long and someone picked up the pace. We needed something to keep up with. When the crowd switched to "no hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here" (those girls were really dancing by now), a man circled around the crowd on his bike, yelling himself hoarse while joining in by shouting "no hate, no hate, no hate" over and over.

By 7:50 p.m., the crowd had grown larger; only a moment later, it seemed, the crowd was big. Organizers at the front tried to mic check but the chants were still traveling through the middle of the crowd, echoing through the back. Shh, shh, shhh!! People frantically shushed one another because there was no way to hear what was coming from the front. We applauded anyway. Someone started yelling "give me your tired, your poor," and a woman held up her sign, which had the entire poem printed on it, and yelled, "That’s my sign!" People laughed and asked to take her photo.

At the front there was a call for lawyers. Lawyers and press. People in the crowd jumped a little, either to make their way to the courthouse doors or to let others through. Still, only the tallest, loudest people, waving the most visible forms of identification — security cards, ID badges on lanyards, a spiral-bound notebook held up like proof — were led into the Romanesque Revival courthouse lobby, across the terrazzo floors, to the metal detectors. Soon enough security guards came to the front door to say the courtroom was full and no one else was getting in. “Thank you,” a chorus of voices replied, and seconds later there was a little wave — a splash, really — of thank-yous from the back.

A person who called for a mic check without having anything to say was reprimanded by the crowd. “Mic check doesn’t mean silence!” someone exclaimed. The silence was anxious. We were waiting; we’d been waiting, and the sound was only coming through in echoes, a crowdsourced reverb, information trying to carry on itself forward and back. People started checking Twitter.

At 8:45 p.m., we learned that Judge Donnelly had granted the stay, and seconds later, it seemed, everyone was celebrating. The stay was national. The crowd felt loud about it. They cheered the lawyers as they exited the courthouse, some of them making peace signs with arms high above their heads so everyone could see. Lee Gelernt and Anthony D. Romero from the ACLU came outside to tell the crowd what had happened, and a newscaster tried to start his report as they spoke, his network cable voice projected loud and clear into the crowd. The shushes were vicious, and he stopped. Gelernt and Romero continued, and when they finished, the clapping and the cheering started up again, along with a little bit of crying. It was one check in a system without balance. Then, the awkward bounce, from sidewalk curb to street: Where to next? —HALEY MLOTEK