About 1,000 delis and grocers that city-dwellers rely on shuttered for eight hours Thursday as many Yemeni business owners headed to Brooklyn for a 5,000-strong rally against President Donald Trump’s order to ban travel to and from seven Muslim countries, including Yemen.
“I’ve been here since 2 p.m.,” Abdulwahab Alomavi, 19, told Metro at Brooklyn Borough Hall, three hours early for the rally. “I wanted to see everyone coming together and show that the United States is the land of freedom.”
American and Yemeni flags floated together above a mass of immigrant New Yorkers gathered for speeches and prayer. As the sun began to set, the Muslim men arranged themselves in orderly rows facing Mecca to bow and kneel in prayer in a striking demonstration of solidarity.
There are approximately 6,000 Yemeni-owned businesses in New York City, organizers of the protest said. While many bodegas remained open through the strike because they couldn’t afford to lose the business, their sentiments – and some of their staff – were with demonstrators.
“It’s our right to protest against discrimination of religion and race,” said Hamzah Aljahmi, 25. “Trump doesn’t know how to be a president. We’re asking him to act like a president, to see us together, and to remove the ban.”
Aljahmi started the visa process a year ago to get his mother into the U.S. for specialized medical attention.
His family owns four grocery stores on Coney Island, none of which closed during superstorm Sandy, all of which were shuttered today, for the “first time I can remember,” he said.
Miriam Schwartz, an Orthodox Lubavich woman from Crown Heights, was tearing up as she witnessed the protest.
“I feel horrible for these hard working people, running away from wars. It’s disgusting the way he’s discriminating against brown people,” she said. “It feels like the holocaust.”
“And it’s giving ammunition to the jihadists.”
Public officials including Borough President Eric Adams and Public Advocate Letitia James roared for peace and an end to the ban at the rally.
“Today I am Yemeni,” Adams said.