Correction: An earlier version of this story contained an incorrect first name for protest speaker and mayoral candidate Stella Padilla.
Armed with chants and handmade signs, about 1,000 people Sunday evening marched on city streets and into the Albuquerque International Sunport in protest of President Donald Trump’s executive order banning refugees and immigrants from several majority Muslim nations.
“No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here,” the group shouted.
The protest started in a parking lot on Yale SE on Sunday afternoon and gathered into a mass as speakers shared messages of encouragement, tolerance and resistance through a megaphone.
Signs stood above the crowd. One with cut out green and red chiles read “We love red, we love green and all the colors in between.” Images of the Statue of Liberty decorated several signs, and many more quoted a portion of the poem engraved on her pedestal: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
After hearing multiple speakers, protesters took over two of Yale Boulevard’s northbound lanes as they headed for the airport. Many passing motorists honked or offered a thumbs-up in support. Police briefly stopped traffic into and out of the Sunport as the dense but sprawling protest crossed roadways outside. Soon the group flooded inside, still chanting.
“No ban, no wall, Albuquerque is for all,” they said, also a reference to Trump’s determination to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border. Several signs alluded to that: “Families don’t have borders,” one read.
Once inside, many in the crowd sat on the brick floors at the base of several escalators beside the baggage claim. Police helped carve a path for travelers ascending the escalator and headed to the exit. Some travelers raised a fist in solidarity; others looked annoyed by the inconvenience.
Nasra Ali stood toward the back of the crowd with friends. She had emigrated in 2001 from Somalia, and as a Muslim, she said she felt comforted by the protest turnout.
As a naturalized citizen, she’s not worried for herself, she said, but fears for friends and family members who might travel home and find themselves unable to return. Somalia is one of the seven countries named in the travel ban.
“You’re not alone,” she said of the support shown by the march. “Everybody is with you.”
One floor up, another large contingent of protesters gathered as more speakers took to the megaphone.
“Human lives matter,” one shouted.
A woman stood on an airport chair waving an American flag.
As they slowly filtered out of the airport, people chanted “This is what democracy looks like.” And as they marched out of the airport, a rendition of “This land is your land” echoed through the covered pick-up lanes.
The march was one of many across the United States to take place outside of airports, in parks and beside government buildings in dozens of cities.
A spokesman for the Sunport confirmed that the president’s order hadn’t impacted travel in Albuquerque, which doesn’t offer international service. Daniel Jiron said Sunday nights are a quiet time as far as travel goes, so any disruption caused by the protest was “minimal.”
“We’re very pleased with how the protesters acted,” Jiron said, describing the group as well organized and respectful. “From our perspective, it went as well as it could have.”
NM officials react
Meanwhile on Sunday, New Mexico’s Hector Balderas was among 15 attorneys general to issue a joint statement condemning the “un-American federal executive order.”
“Religious liberty has been, and always will be, a bedrock principle of our country and no president can change that truth,” the statement said. “Yesterday, multiple federal courts ordered a stay of the administration’s dangerous Executive Order. We applaud those decisions and will use all of the tools of our offices to fight this unconstitutional order and preserve our nation’s national security and core values.”
Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., issued a similar condemnation of the order, calling it “shameful, and it is an affront to our history and our values. Beyond its moral repugnance, I believe there are serious constitutional problems with this new Trump policy.”
Udall urged his Senate colleagues of both parties to refuse to confirm Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for secretary of State, until he states his position on the policy.
Mayoral candidates Stella Padilla and Tim Keller both spoke briefly at Sunday’s protest.