Melbourne on Friday night joined the global protests against US president Donald Trump’s anti-immigration executive decree. More than 1,000 people marched through the city chanting, “No ban, no way – immigrants are here to stay!” and, “From Palestine to Mexico, border walls have got to go!”
As the crowd snaked through the streets, dozens and dozens of homemade placards bobbed above the march. “I made it just for tonight”, said Mariam, a young Muslim woman. The message read, “History has its eyes on us”.
Mariam is studying to be a teacher: “We’ve studied the holocaust, genocide, colonisation – we’ve studied all of that and this is basically history repeating itself. Let’s not do it again, let’s stop it at the start”, she said. “I’m sick of being angry on the internet; I decided I’d rather go out and do something about it.”
Other placards and banners read: “Make racists afraid again”, “Free the refugees” and “Off with his toupe”.
Charlie Tumaine, a 19-year-old Coles worker, was awed by the demonstration around her. “This is encouraging because we are all here today to take a stand with our brothers and sisters suffering in the US, who are Black, Latino, Asian, Muslim. Our cause is the same”, she said.
The rally came as news broke overnight that the US Justice and State departments revealed that tens of thousands of visas have been cancelled in the past week.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale gave an uncharacteristically radical speech, in which he called for “a global resistance” on the streets against the “deranged” Trump and the “crony capitalist” order being ushered in by the new administration. Later, speaking to the Guardian, he said:
“I think, like many Australians right now, people are feeling shocked and angry and they are realising the political establishment has let them down. Now’s the time to make it very clear to all those people who are the target of Donald Trump’s vile attack that we stand with them, because I think many of those people feel abandoned right now. They feel ignored.”
Marching along Swanston Street, Tasnim Sammik, 25, held a placard carrying only the name of one of the six victims of the recent murderous attack on a Quebec mosque – Khaled Belkacemi. “I helped organise the Islamic community to come out today”, she said. “Things are getting worse and worse. The more silent and afraid we are the more our rights will be stripped away.”
“Trump is openly saying that Muslims are dangerous, this is a new form of rhetoric”, she said. “Prime minister Turnbull didn’t condemn it either … he hasn’t disagreed with it, all he’s said is that we have even better border control.”
One of the rally organisers, Liz Walsh, said she was pleased with the turnout and the spirit of the demonstration. “It’s inspiring to have such a diverse crowd come out to unite on the streets. The Muslim community, Palestinians, Latin Americans, high school students, and others are here fighting against Trump and building a global movement against racism.”
“There’s been a real energy tonight which comes from the anger at what’s going on in the world. A lot of it is focused on our government too and its own refugee ban.”
The final address to the crowd was by Reem, a Palestinian activist. She implored everyone present to keep fighting and to encourage others join in. “I’d like to see our numbers doubled, tripled, filling all the squares and all the airports.”