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Yemeni-Americans shut hundreds of shops in NY City to protest travel ban

By Gina Cherelus

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Hundreds of New York City bodegas, grocery stores and restaurants owned by Yemeni Americans closed for hours on Thursday in protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's immigration policies, organizers said.

Loyal patrons who rely on the stores for staples of daily life had to look elsewhere for lunch after more than 1,000 locations shut their doors from noon to 8 p.m. in a move coordinated by groups including the Muslim Community Network and the Yemeni American Community.

Bodega, a Spanish word meaning wine shop, is New York City slang for small stores selling everything from deli foods to newspapers and cat litter.

"We want to send the message that we're here," said Sulaiman Alaodyi, a 24-year-old cashier at the Best and Tasty deli in the borough of the Bronx, a bodega that is normally open around the clock. This was the first time it closed its doors since it started business nine months ago.

The protests followed the decision by Trump's administration to put a four-month hold on letting refugees into the United States and to temporarily bar travelers from Yemen, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Somalia.

The order, which is being challenged in U.S. courts, left some travelers stranded and others held at airports on arrival. It provoked an outpouring of anger and dismay from immigrants, refugees and supporters.

Many store owners and workers who shut up shop were going to rally and hold public sundown prayers outside Brooklyn Borough Hall.

"We're going to go out and support all our brothers and sisters who are detained in airports and in other countries that can't get back," Alaodyi said. "This is just not fair."

New York City is home to many immigrants from Yemen, a country of about 24 million in the Arabian Peninsula. Many live in Brooklyn, but some are in Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx.

Golden Deli, a Yemeni-owned bodega in Manhattan, was swelling with customers who picked up early lunches before it closed. Nermin Radoncic, 22, walked up shortly after workers pulled down the shutters at noon.

Radoncic, who lives nearby but is moving to Queens, was disappointed he could not buy a pastrami and Swiss sandwich on his last day in the neighborhood. But he said he supported the protest.

"They make the bomb sandwiches," Radoncic said of Golden Deli. "This is like the best deli out here. Trump is a jerk."

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus; Editing by Daniel Wallis and David Gregorio)