Hundreds gather at MLK Plaza to protest immigration ban

Hundreds of students, faculty and community members gathered at USF to protest the immigration ban implemented by President Donald Trump on Friday. ORACLE PHOTO/JACKIE BENITEZ

Hundreds of students, faculty and community members gathered at USF to protest the immigration ban implemented by President Donald Trump on Friday.

Two pink pussyhats, which were donned by thousands during the women’s march on Jan. 21, and three red Make America Great Again caps were spotted in the crowd accompanying the dozens of hand-drawn signs refuting the new immigration ban.

“No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here” was scribbled across a poster board, echoing one of the many chants erupting through the plaza over the course of two hours.

Elizabeth Aranda, a sociology professor at USF, was one of the many faculty members and students to speak at the protest.

“The travel ban on immigrants from muslim countries will affect our country’s ability to attract the best and brightest of the world to study at our institutions, like this one and will prove detrimental to securing talented individuals to work in our leading industries,” Aranda said. “Banning refugees is a stain on our country.

“Future generations will judge us on these actions. It’s up to all of us to stand up for what’s right and to make sure we support evidence based policies. We stand ready to help any students, staff member or faculty who feel threatened and under duress by these recent actions. We are here for you.”

Students shared their personal immigration stories, praised the unity present on campus today and urged onlookers to continue the fight against the ban.

“I’m here today to show my support to the amazing diverse community of students, staff and faculty at USF,” Aranda said. “I’m also a researcher who studies immigration and immigrant lives… So let’s take a look at facts, not alternative facts, but actual facts that should guide immigration policy.”

A Muslim-American wearing a hijab led the crowd in singing “This land,” students and faculty linked arms in a symbolic display of unity and students from a variety of races and religions shared their outrage at the ban on refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries.

The protest took place at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza at 12 p.m. Monday. Many in attendance ended the protest on a march to the Patel building on the other side of campus.

A similar protest had been held Sunday in Ybor city and thousands have rallied at airports across the nation and in Washington D.C. in opposition to the ban.

A statement was sent out to students late Monday evening from System President Judy Genshaft that expressed the university's position of supporting the echange of ideas and creating a safe environment for all students.

"Even while we are closely studying the potential outcomes of the recent U.S. administration’s executive order regarding the citizens of seven specific foreign countries, our commitment to cultural and institutional diversity remains steadfast," the statement said. "We are absolutely committed to the success of all our faculty, staff and students, national and international, and always will be."