LOS ANGELES — A small band of protesters returned to Los Angeles International Airport Jan. 30 to continue protesting President Donald Trump’s immigration order barring visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries, but the demonstration was a mere shadow of weekend rallies that delayed flights and snarled traffic.
Members of United Service Workers West, SEIU-USWW, gathered outside the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX, chanting slogans and banging drums in opposition to the travel ban. The union workers had a pre-scheduled rally planned at the airport in conjunction with ongoing labor negotiations, but expanded its action to condemn Trump’s order.
There were no immediate reports of any disruptions to airport activity as a result of the protest — a stark contrast from mass rallies in the Central Terminal Area over the weekend in the midst of confusion as Trump’s order took effect.
Thousands of people marched around the international terminal area Jan. 29 with some remaining at the airport until the early morning hours, when the crowd finally dispersed. According to Los Angeles World Airports spokeswoman Nancy Castles, the crowd dissipated by about 12:30 a.m., and the loop road through the airport was completely reopened on both levels.
Two people were arrested during the protests for blocking the roadway, she said. A total of 15 flights — six international and nine domestic — were reported delayed because flight crews and passengers had trouble reaching their terminals.
Airport police worked throughout the day to keep protesters and counter-protesters apart as “they screamed at each other,” Los Angeles Airport police spokesman Rob Pedregon said. Airport officials and protesters finally agreed that protesters could block the crosswalk at the international terminal for about 15 minutes every half hour and that the arrival and departure levels would not be blocked at the same time, according to Castles.
The lower level roadway was closed starting at 2 p.m. outside the Tom Bradley International Terminal, which sits between Terminal 3 and Terminal 4, Pedregon said. The number 4 lane and the outer curb area of the lower level roadway was reopened by 3 p.m., but airport police urged travelers to arrive early and plan on delays.
At the heart of the matter was Trump’s Executive Order banning indefinitely all refugees from Syria entering the United States. The order blocked all refugee admissions for 120 days, and also stopped all refugee and non-refugee entries from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Syria for 90 days.
At a news conference in Anaheim, members of various civil-rights groups condemned the action.
“This ban does not make our country safer,” said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Greater Los Angeles Area Office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). “Instead, it serves to stigmatize Muslims, Muslim refugees, and the entire American Muslim community. It will hand a propaganda tool to our enemies who promote the false narrative of an American war on Islam.”
The national office of CAIR filed a federal lawsuit in Virginia Monday challenging the constitutionality of Trump’s order, which the White House defends as a step in preventing potential terrorists from entering the country.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that despite all the uproar, only about 100 travelers out of about 320,000 visitors were detained for additional screenings.
“It’s a shame that people were inconvenienced, obviously, but at the end of the day we’re talking about a couple of hours,” Spicer said.
“I’m sorry that some folks may have had to await a little while, but I think the president would much rather know that he’s not placing a call to someone who was killed because someone was let in this country to commit a terrorist act.”
He added, “Coming into the this country is still a privilege. We’re the greatest country on Earth. Being able to come to America is a privilege, not a right. And it is our duty and it’s the president’s goal to make sure that everybody who comes into this country — to the best of our ability — is here because they want to enjoy this country and come in peacefully.”
The protests at LAX actually began Jan. 28. At least 300 people rallied against the executive order at LAX, Maria Elena Jauregui of the Service Employees International Union said. The protests began as word spread about dozens of people being detained or turned away as friends and relatives came to meet them.
New state Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued a statement pledging to find every avenue possible to defend residents and refugees barred from re-entry into the United States.
“Justice doesn’t live or die on the stroke of one man’s pen regardless of how high his office,” Becerra said, calling Trump’s executive order unjust and anti-American. “It discriminates against human beings based on their faith. It denies entry to those with proven and legitimate fears of death and prosecution. It tramples on centuries of American tradition.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti added, “Los Angeles will always be a place of refuge, where the most vulnerable people fleeing war, or religious or political oppression, can find a safe and welcoming home. Congress outlawed the banning of immigrants by nationality more than 50 years ago because we have long known it does not make us safer.”