Advertisement
California

Protesters block traffic at LAX as thousands rally against Trump travel ban

More police arrived to manage the crowd and reopen the roads at LAX as thousands protested President Trump’s travel restrictions.

Thousands gathered at Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday, rallying outside terminals, marching through roadways and blocking traffic in a forceful denunciation of President Trump’s sweeping travel ban on people from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

The demonstrations were mostly confined to the area around the Tom Bradley International Terminal, a hub of global travel, and as the day continued, the show of civil unrest became more insistent.

The crowd faced off with police in riot gear. Marchers chanted and renounced the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency. At one point, a group of Muslim demonstrators formed rows and knelt down to pray.

By nightfall, dozens had blocked traffic along the departures level of World Way — the main thoroughfare that snakes through the airport — and Assistant Police Chief Michael Moore used a megaphone to repeatedly ask protesters to move to the sidewalk.

Advertisement

“We do not want to arrest you,” Moore said. “You’re making the local law enforcement be the bad guy here. We don’t want to be the bad guy.”

The protesters asked him to demand the release of detainees in exchange for clearing the roadway.

At 10 p.m., two people were arrested for allegedly blocking the roadway, according to LAX Police Officer Rob Pedregon. The two were cited and released.

Late Sunday, police also brokered an agreement with demonstrators, allowing them to alternate between the airport’s upper and lower levels for 30-minute intervals. At each interval, protesters were allowed to fully close a road for 15 minutes, according to a statement released by LAX. 

Advertisement

Demonstrators dispersed and upper- and lower-level roadways were fully open, with traffic flowing normally, LAX officials said in a 12:30 a.m. statement.

”We’ll be monitoring social media for any events that may come up,” Pedregon said Monday morning

Inside the airport, untold numbers of people from countries affected by Trump’s order — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Syria — were detained despite having valid visas and green cards. 

Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and other public interest law groups raced to file court papers to release those being held. 

Jennie Pasquarella, director of immigrant rights for the ACLU of California, said her group had filed habeas petitions on behalf of seven people who were detained at LAX on Saturday. All seven were later released, and of those, two elderly women were held for longer than 24 hours, she said. 

On Sunday, the ACLU also requested that a federal judge order that all detainees receive access to lawyers as well as phones. A judge could hear the petition on Monday or Tuesday.

Reliable statistics on the number of people detained at LAX were difficult to access. One detainee told the ACLU that at least 100 people were being held on Saturday. Late Sunday, immigration attorneys working at LAX estimated that about 20 people were being detained at any given time. A law enforcement source told The Times that 13 people had been detained at Terminal 2 on Saturday night, but each of them held a green card and was eventually released. The source could not provide detention figures for the Tom Bradley International Terminal, the airport’s locus of international travel.

Advertisement

Pasquarella also said federal immigration officials have been urging some detainees to waive their applications for admission to the U.S., an allegation echoed by ACLU officials in other cities. It was not clear what detainees were faced with, but Pasquarella suggested that officials could threaten to deport detained individuals, which could have a long-term effect on their ability to reenter the U.S. at a later date. 

Attorneys were also having difficulty accessing those being held. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency did not respond to requests for comment.

At LAX, some protesters marched around the lower level beating drums, blowing whistles and chanting, “No ban, no wall, sanctuary for all.”

Holding a sign that read, “Our Anne Frank Is a Syrian Child,” Alexandra Noyes, 41, said her background as a Jewish woman made her decide to drive to the airport Sunday morning.

“As a Jewish kid you are relentlessly trained to stand up for people who are being oppressed in the way that the Jews have been in the past,” Noyes said. “Around the time of the election, it became pretty clear that now is that time.”

About a dozen counter-protesters popped up on the street across from the Bradley Terminal, holding signs that read “X-treme Vetting” and “Keep Refugees Out,” saying they were tired of the flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S. that they believe jeopardizes the safety of American citizens.

Chanell Temple, 63, of Los Angeles said she was sick of watching immigrants in the country illegally "steal” benefits and services from American citizens, specifically veterans and homeless persons who need aid.

“They are coming here and taking everything away,” said Temple, a former bookkeeper who said she lost her job and healthcare after she was fired because she couldn’t speak Spanish.

Advertisement

Throughout the day, protesters intermittently froze traffic. Officials with LAX said some flights were delayed because airline employees and passengers could not reach the terminals. 

Motorist Rebekah Bergeron, 22, was sitting at the head of a line of cars blocked by the protesters. Though she said she didn’t object to their demonstration, she also wanted to get home to Arizona.

“I have no problem if they want to protest this, but I just missed my flight,” she said. “I just watched it take off.”

On Saturday, after mass demonstrations across the country, a federal judge in New York ordered a halt to deportations of travelers who arrived at airports with valid visas to enter the U.S., saying that sending them back to the affected countries could cause them “irreparable harm.” But she did not rule on the legality of the order.

Rulings from the federal bench appear to have come too late for some.

Marjan Vayghan of West Los Angeles said her uncle was deported from LAX on Saturday afternoon just before the ACLU arrived with paperwork to stop the deportations.

Ali Vayeghan arrived at 7:15 p.m. Friday from Tehran. He was going to stay with Marjan Vayghan’s parents, then go to Indiana to join his wife, who arrived in the U.S. four months ahead of him, and his son.

But he never emerged from customs. She said he was put on a plane to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, at 3:15 p.m. Saturday.

The ACLU was trying to prevent his deportation but arrived with paperwork 45 minutes too late. The family spoke to him by phone after he landed in Dubai, where he was waiting to be put on a flight to Tehran.

On Sunday afternoon, a federal judge in Los Angeles ordered authorities to transport Vayeghan back to the U.S. and admit him under the terms of his visa, which is set to expire Feb. 14.

By the time the order came down, Vayeghan was on a plane bound for Tehran, and his family said they were uncertain what would happen next.

james.queally@latimes.com

javier.panzar@latimes.com

matt.hamilton@latimes.com

ALSO

L.A.'s Iranian American community reacts to President Trump’s travel ban

When Muslims got blocked at American airports, U.S. veterans rushed to help

Travel ban is the clearest sign yet of Trump advisors’ intent to reshape the country


Advertisement