By Naomi Hofferber
University of Iowa students and Iowa City community members gathered in solidarity Thursday during an Academics United rally against President Trump’s executive order banning the immigration of citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries.
Individuals stood in the February cold, circled up on the Pentacrest, chanting, “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here.”
The protest was hosted by the UI Persian Students Organization, the Human Rights Student Collective, the Organization for Active Support of International Students, the Arab Students Association, and the Muslim Students Association. UI Provost and Executive Vice President Barry Butler spoke at the rally against the ban.
“Most of all, I want to say one more time: No matter what your background, no matter what your country of origin, you deserve the opportunity to thrive at the University of Iowa,” he said. “You belong here, and we are proud to have you as a part of our community.”
Iowa City Mayor Jim Throgmorton, while not in attendance because of a prior engagement, released a statement, saying, “No scholarly institution can thrive unless scholars themselves are able to travel freely, to communicate with other scholars and to really improve the base of knowledge of their discipline.”
“This executive order has a great effect on student’s lives, especially those students from the seven Muslim countries, so we are here to let our voices be heard by the administrative people on campus and everywhere saying this is against the Constitution,” a student organizer for the event said. “Everyone should have equal rights here in the U.S.”
Around 46 other universities from around the nation also participated in the Academics United rally. While the ban has been temporarily halted and has been challenged by the ACLU, it is still up for discussion whether it is constitutional or not.
Sara Lettieri, the vice president of Arab Student Association who led chants at the rally, noted the importance of protesting.
“A lot of people hold these opinions and don’t express them; who is going to know that they have them, how are we going to know we’re not alone and we have people around us in solidarity to feel empowered enough to speak out,” Lettieri said. “If we all keep our opinions to ourselves, nothing is going to change. We have to hold our political figures accountable, and we have to make sure our voices are heard and our values are known.”
On Thursday evening, a U.S. Court of Appeals rejected a bid to reinstate Trump’s immigration ban. It is possible that an appeal to the Supreme Court will follow.
“I also want everyone to look inside of themselves, inside their communities, and make sure that inside of their own daily lives that you aren’t a bystander to racism, to Islamophobia, to any kind of -ism that really is a big part of our lives,” said Gada Al-Herz, the president of the Arab Student Association. “If injustice is happening, and you are neutral, you are siding with the oppressor. It’s a daily fight; united, we are a lot stronger.”