By Zachary Lee, Archivist
“Build a wall, we’ll tear it down!” shouted a group of young Muslim Americans last Sunday, leading a group of protesters outside Terminal 1 at Lambert–St. Louis International Airport. Despite the crisp, overcast conditions, they cycled proudly through chants, the group collectively confirming, “No hate, no fear! Immigrants are welcome here!”
As has become customary of these protests, many held signs with phrases ranging from the simple, “Let them in,” to the crass, “F— your wall,” to the more poignant, “Without immigrants, Trump would have no wives.” Many held signs brandishing the classic Emma Lazarus quote: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
Hannah Kay of Creve Coeur, 51, held a sign that read, “Don’t make my Christian friends look bad.” She had been at the protest since the early afternoon. “Someone is breaking this beautiful country,” she said. “It all starts like this, and then it all crumbles. I watched the same thing happen in Algeria,” Kay claimed, referring to the political unrest there in the last few decades. “I hope this administration will come to its senses.”
Like the Women’s March on St. Louis on January 21, this protest mirrored a national movement of citizens standing up to President Trump’s onslaught of executive orders. Protesters gathered in New York Laguardia Airport Saturday night, inspiring copycat protests across the country.
Many protesters, hoping to avoid airport traffic and parking garage fees, made their way to Lambert by way of St. Louis’ Metrolink, whose last westbound stop on the redline is Lambert’s Terminal 1.
Standing just before the escalator leading to the Metro station, eagerly waiting for these protest-goers, were Craig and Tam England of Webster Groves, 45 and 46. They hoped to engage citizens in another way: through petitions. “We want to make it clear to our representatives that so many of us find this unacceptable,” Craig said, pausing to ask a few passersby for their signatures. “We don’t know if it will change their minds, but we’re doing everything we can.”
The Englands hope that having a physical presence — and a physical list of signatures — will continue to echo the protesters’ chants once they inevitably leave the airport. “Online petitions may give [signers] a false sense of security. A physical petition shows [our representatives] that people cared enough to actually get out of their houses and demonstrate,” Craig said.
Tam cited outrage as her number one motivation for coming to the protest. “There are names to each of these faces in the crowd here, names for each of the refugees in the pictures circling the web,” she said.
“The real problem is that this [the executive order] will probably help recruitment for ISIS,” Craig said. “This does nothing to make us safer, but has real impacts on real people’s lives.”
“And it just flat out sucks,” Tam agreed, passing her clipboard to a group of sign-wielding, homebound protesters.