I attended a rally this week to Let In the Refugees. People were there of all nationalities, backgrounds and generations. The rally was put on by Americans for Refugees and immigrants and billed as “Bring Us Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses” and calling for unity against Islamophobia and xenophobia. It was in support of the Seattle governor Jay Inslee’s statement that Washington state would welcome refugees.
People who I spoke to came out of a deep concern for the lives of the refugees in Syria but also other parts of the world, and were deeply disgusted with the hatred being whipped up against Muslims and refugees in general. There was also anger and disgust over the GOP’s recent comments on refugees, including Chris Christie’s recent comment that he wouldn’t let a five year old orphan into the country. People had signs like “No One is Illegal” and “They are coming here because they are fleeing bombs.”
I consciously made an effort to ask people what they thought the problem and what they saw the solution as. I had on a World Can’t Wait t-shirt that said “Humanity and The Planet Comes First” with this written in many different languages on the back. I was with others who were getting out copies of The Terrorist Attacks in Paris and the Need For Another Way and World Can’t Wait’s statement, Break the Silence: No More War on Syria.
There were a couple of young people who didn’t understand why people are so scared of the refugees. They saw the problem as people without empathy or compassion for others. I talked with them about how we have to look at what caused this refugee crisis: the bombs of the US and workings of war for empire and the development of two outmoded forces, imperialism and reactionary Islamic fundamentalism, that both reinforce each other even as they are in opposition. The responsibility of people living in this country is to oppose the crimes of THEIR government by saying STOP the bombs on Syria.
One person responded by saying, “you are right, this is just going to keep going back and forth,” and saw that it was the people who were going to suffer.
There was a lot of openess to talk deeply and off of these conversations, people would want to get flyers. I met a student from the University of Washington who came because she thought it was really wrong to discriminate against people from other countries.
She said that the people she talks to worry that if refugees are let in it is going to ruin “our way of life” because they have different cultures. She was really grappling with “how do you change how people think.” She has never been to a protest but was thinking about doing one now on her campus.
There were a number of older people who had also been to the police brutality protests and the Black Friday protests the day before. One person, of Middle Eastern descent, recognized me from the police brutality protests and was talking about how the US caused this crisis, how they fueled ISIS and how none of the groups in Syria are any good. He had a lot to say about the situation, that if the US stopped bombing there could be a vacuum for something better.
Another young woman was saying that she felt people don’t think about why immigrants come here, she was from Moldova and said that she had to leave her family, her way of life, learn a new language, etc., but it was the only way for her to have any opportunites in life.
She was saying that she didn’t know if the horrors of the world could be stopped but that if they were to stop it was on us to do it, we need to come together because the world powers don’t care, they only care about what they can extract from people.
Some of the Raging Grannies who have been very active around the environment, police brutality were there. Some of them had been at the Black Friday protest the day before, and some were saying we need a revolution… with various ideas of what that means, including re-distribution of wealth, restricting greed but also very much grappling with all of the horrors from Syria to police terror, and the attacks on Planned Parenthood. One of the women said that she thought the atmosphere of fear was very dangerous and verbatim said, “I just don’t know if there is a way out.”
I connected with one of the young college students who organized the protest, an activists with Americans for Refugees. I didn’t talk with her much but she immediately gave me a hug and thanked me for being there, said they have been having these rallies for a while but people were not showing up until now — she felt like we shouldn’t have to wait for bad things to happen before we come together.
Line are being drawn in society. Do you stand with the refugees or do you think American lives are more important than other people’s lives? There is a great need to sharpen up that question even more, with people coming out very visibly to say STOP WARS ON SYRIA and beyond! Now is the time to be visible with the message Humanity And The Planet Comes First: Stop The Crimes of Your Government!