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Bodegas on Strike: Thousands of Yemeni-American Shop Owners & Workers Rally Against Trump’s Muslim Ban

Web ExclusiveFebruary 03, 2017
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Yemeni Americans closed their shops Thursday to protest President Trump’s ban on people from Yemen and six other majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States. Democracy Now!’s Laura Gottesdiener was there when thousands of bodega owners and workers, family members and supporters rallied in Brooklyn.

Special thanks to Andre Lewis and Hany Massoud.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

LAURA GOTTESDIENER: We’re in Brooklyn, New York, outside Yemen Café. It’s one of more than a thousand bodegas and Yemeni-owned businesses that is on strike today as a protest against President Trump’s executive order barring people from seven majority-Muslim nations, including Yemen, from entering the United States. On the window, there’s a sign that reads, “Dear Neighbor, We are closing our business … [to] support our families, friends and loved ones who are stranded at U.S. airports and overseas.”

Well, just a few blocks away, hundreds of these Yemeni business owners and workers are on strike, showing their defiance to President Trump’s policies.

MOHAMMAD: He’s trying to make America great. He’s not making America great. He’s making America worse and worse. We need to stop this. I’m from Yemen. My name Mohammad. And I came here today to tell him he cannot destroy America. If he wants to deport immigrant people, he has to go first, before anyone else, because we’re all here from different countries.

JAMEL MOHAMMED: My name is Jamel Mohammed. I am a store owner. I own a deli in the Lower East Side called LoHo Gourmet Deli. I was lucky. I mean, I was one of the lucky people who brang—I brought my kids over before what’s—before what happened. So, and I give, you know, a big support to everybody around here.

WAFA MUTHANA: My name is Wafa Muthana, and I’m 23 years old, and I’m a Yemeni American. How can you ban a country from coming in, especially if you have green cards and visas? I mean, this is outrageous!

SAL ALTAHERI: My name is Sal Altaheri. And the reason we’re here is in support of our family members that’s left overseas, actually, who are—got their papers. They are—they went through the process of immigration. They’ve been waiting for years. The families here had spent thousands of dollars for them and for airfare, for all the accommodations over there. Now they’ve received their visas from the U.S. Consulate. There are some in Djibouti. There are some in Malaysia. There’s some in Cairo. There’s some in Algeria. With this executive order, now they are not able to come in.

KHALED ALEDRESI: My name is Khaled Aledresi. I’m a Yemeni American. I am a cab driver, so I drive all over. I’m with many drivers, Yemeni Americans. So, we stopped working today. I’m a citizen. And my wife and my two daughters over there, I’m trying to apply for them. But for the executive order, they stopped all the—I mean, the papers. And they are stuck in the Djibouti now.

TANZILA RAHMAN: My name is Tanzila Rahman. I’m from Harlem, and my parents are from Bangladesh. And growing up, I was super-jealous of all the Yemeni kids in the neighborhood whose parents owned the bodegas, and they’d walk in, and they would just like grab chips, and I would get some, too. So, to me, they’ve always been my friends and like the only other Muslims in class. We are scared that Bangladesh will be put on the list. We already know a couple Bengali kids that have been—that are on F1 visas, that have been harassed at the airports, even though it’s not on the list of banned countries.

MAKKE DAKHALOUI: My name is Makke. And my sign reads, “My mom removes her hijab before leaving the house, so I wore mine.” The reason why I made this sign today is because—after realizing that my mom, as of late, ever since the inauguration, has been scared to wear her hijab, because she does a housekeeping job, and she fears that people might accuse her of being a thief, just because she’s a Muslim. So she does not want to be identified as a Muslim in the workplace. The thing that’s so funny about it and that breaks my heart is because, during September 11, as a child, I was roughly around like 12, 13 years old, and I was scared to be identified as a Muslim, and she motivated me to be a Muslim. She motivated me to be proud to be Arab.

ABDUL RAHMAN: My name is Abdul Rahman. We’ve been in this country for many years. My father had been in this country. Our grandfathers were in this country. I do work in a grocery store, and we closed to come out here. It is our duty to come, so Donald Trump can see what we are about. This is wrong what he’s doing. It’s wrong. It’s wrong.

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