In this insane political climate, the protests at airports across the nation in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order demanding “extreme vetting” of immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations — aka a Muslim ban — already feels like a long time ago. But tens of thousands of people attended those marches, and their clever chanting was a consolation prize for those worried about the state of American democracy.
I attended the protest at Los Angeles International Airport on Saturday afternoon, an event that extended from the early afternoon and late into the night, and I eavesdropped on the conversations happening in the crowd under the persistent roar of protest chants. Here were some of my favorites quotes.
“Is it bad that I feel like we’re staving off the inevitable? I don’t know. I show up. You’ve gotta show up. People are so upset, and I’m so upset, and sitting at home makes me upset, but being here makes me upset. I don’t know. Maybe it’ll help. I don���’t know.” — White man, 40s**
“So I told the guy in the airport Starbucks that my friend, she came to pick up her uncle on Friday and she hasn’t left since. So we’re standing here with her until he gets out. I got a free muffin when his boss wasn’t looking so — laughs — so that’s the progress I’ve made so far.” — Muslim woman, 30s, holding hands with her young son
Woman #1: “I bought protest shoes. Is that too white girl? Getting, like, shoes to protest in? They’re comfy.” Woman #2: “I hope not, I’m a black girl and I fuckin’ went with you.”
“Does anyone want water? We got water. We got water, we got granola bars, we got democratic rage, whatever. We got it, it’s free, just take it. — Latina woman, 20s, handing out water bottle to protestors
“No one I know is stuck here, but I feel stuck here. My aunt and uncle are in Iran, and like, I don’t know if I’ll see them again. And they don’t know if I’m safe living here anymore. And I don’t either, I guess.” — Iranian man, 20s
Young Girl: “Is anyone getting on the planes?” Mother: “Yes, we’ve got to make sure we can let them by.” Young Girl: “Are we going anywhere?” Mother: “No, we’re here to help people who can’t get home.” Young Girl: “By yelling?” Mother: “Well, it’s called peaceful assembly, but yes, by yelling.”
“It makes me so emotional because … I don’t know, these things have been happening for so long and I just … I feel stupid. I didn’t know. Or I wasn’t paying attention. I don’t even know. I didn’t know, and now it’s like all these people like me who were so fucking dumb before are seeing all this stuff for the first time.” — White woman, 40s, crying just outside of the main throng
“Never thought I’d be cheering for lawyers, but shit, there you go.” — Black man, 20s**
“You think people are scared of me here? I think people might think I’m about to, I don’t know, start yelling ‘Steve Bannon’ or something. I hope not. I hope not.” — Red-headed white man, 30s, wearing a flannel and a cowboy hat