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Trump immigration policies, ban protested at Times Square rally

About 1,000 protesters descended on Times Square on Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017, in a show of unity against President Donald Trump's immigration policies, including a travel ban on non-U.S. citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries. (Credit: Charles Eckert)

About 1,000 protesters descended Sunday on Times Square in a show of unity against President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, including a ban on travelers and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Under sunny and warm skies, the “Today, I Am A Muslim Too” rally took over Times Square, known as the Crossroads of the World, at about noon. Participants of various ethnicities and religious faiths proclaimed “I Am A Muslim Too” with a huge American flag serving as the rally’s backdrop.

“What’s happening with our government requires that people take a moral, an ethical stand for people who can’t stand for themselves,” said Harlem resident Randi Klein, 45. “This is what democracy is all about, doing it the right way.”

Some protesters chanted, “This is what democracy looks like,” “Not my president” and “Hey, hey, Donald Trump has got to go.” Others held placards of a Muslim woman draped in a head scarf depicting the American flag.

“We have to acknowledge that there is a change in our country ... there is a shift toward more hate crimes and more hate,” said hip-hop mogul and rally co-host Russell Simmons. “We are here unified because of Donald Trump.”

He added, “Our Muslim brothers and sisters have not only been demonized, but they have also been the victims.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio addressed the crowd shortly after 3 p.m., saying that rallies and demonstrations like those held Sunday helped show human commonality.

“Regardless of your background, your faith or where you were born, this is your city,” he said. “Think about the origins of this country ... founded to respect all faiths and beliefs.”

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo did not attend the event, but said on Twitter that he stood “in support of the march for equality and tolerance in Times Square today. We are one New York.”

Linda Sarsour, director of the Arab American Association of New York, urged fellow city residents to commit to never seeing history repeat itself.

“Not on our watch, not on my watch, not on your watch,” she said. “I am not afraid because fear is a choice, it’s not a fact.”

Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, which helped organize the rally, said Jews fleeing Nazi Germany faced barriers similar to those Muslims face today.

“Thousands of Jews who wanted to come to these blessed shores were shut out. Never again,” he said. “The Muslim community is our greatest ally in fighting terrorism and extreme fundamentalism,” he said.

“Any harm to Muslims is harm to all Americans,” said Imam Shamsi Ali of the Jamaica Muslim Center. “This president is an obstacle for Muslims to integrate into America.”

Among the demonstrators was Misha Khan, 22, of East Meadow, who brought her students from the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury.

“Today a lot of my students — 15 — came with their fathers and brothers to see in practice how to achieve social justice,” she said. “In our weekend program we talk about fears and concerns and the misconceptions about Muslims.”

Aaila Awan, 14, said being at the rally made her feel that she belonged in America. “Sometimes I don’t feel like I belong, and now it feels good to know that I am not alone.”

With Laura Figueroa

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