Protesters gather outside U.S. consulate
Demonstrators speak out against Islamophobia in the U.S. and Canada
On Monday January 30, roughly fifty protesters gathered outside the United States Consulate at St. Alexandre and René Lévesque. Carrying signs reading “Immigrants Welcome” and “Open the Borders,” and chanting slogans condemning fascism and Islamophobia, the protesters blocked the doors of the building for over an hour.
Meanwhile, more than a dozen police cars had gathered on surrounding streets, with officers surrounding the protesters, and observing them closely. Several news crews were also present on the scene, and, in addition to the surveillance cameras adorning the building, an unseen staff member installed a portable camera in a window overlooking the consulate doors. Noticing the new camera, several protesters waved or raised middle fingers in its direction.
The demonstration was a direct response to the executive order signed on January 27 by U.S. President Donald Trump, which banned people from seven Muslim-majority countries – Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen – from entering the U.S.. The order also bans Syrian refugees from entering the country indefinitely.
In the following days, the U.S. government faced criticism from across the political spectrum and around the world. Hundreds of people with valid visas found themselves detained at U.S. airports and sometimes denied access to legal counsel, while angry crowds protested outside. On February 3, a fed- eral judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the implementation of the executive order on the grounds that it constitutes harmful and unlawful discrimination against Muslim people, according to the BBC. At the time of publication, however, it is unclear how the restraining order will be implemented, or how long it will last.
Khosro Berahmandi, who is personally affected by the executive order and could not travel to the U.S., told The Daily he had come to the consulate “to raise our voice against what’s happening right now in the world.”
“Every nation [...] has a fear of others,” he said, “and we’re all responsible for not allowing or promoting this fear. Canada as well has practiced this sort of approach to promote fear, and [some] people from Canada, at the same time, they raise their voice against that.”
Protest organizer Bill Van Driel also highlighted Canada’s homegrown Islamophobia.
“The demo today is in response to Trump’s ‘Muslim ban,’” Van Driel told The Daily, “but we’re also trying to talk about the ways that Canada is complicit in this. [...] So opening the borders in one of our core demands, but we’re also demanding that Canada abandon the ‘Safe Third Country’ agreement with the United States.”
This agreement, signed in 2004, stipulates that individuals seeking refugee status must make a claim for protection in the first country – either the U.S. or Canada – in which they land. As such, many advocacy groups have expressed concern that a Syrian refugee affected by the executive order could conceivably be turned away from seeking asylum in Canada, on the grounds that the U.S. constitutes a ‘safe country.’
“I don’t think Canada is that different from the U.S.,” said Van Driel. “Both were founded on land theft and genocide against Indigenous nations, and particularly after yesterday’s shootings [in Quebec City], obviously we’re all thinking about Islamophobia. A lot of the mainstream discourse seems to be focusing on Trump as the cause of it, [...] but at the same time, the ‘reasonable accommodation’ debate [in Quebec] is going back thirty years at this point. [...] This isn’t new, and it’s not particular to America.”
After roughly an hour and a half, the protesters dispersed peacefully. The consulate had remained open throughout, unlike its Toronto counterpart, which had closed in anticipation of protests.