Just a few months ago, Donald Trump packed the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza with supporters who helped him flip Wilkes-Barre and Luzerne County from blue to red, securing Pennsylvania for the then-presidential candidate and the Republicans. Now, just two weeks into his presidency, hundreds gathered in the heart of the city a few miles away to protest Trump’s executive order temporarily banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.
On Saturday, Feb. 4, people of all ages, creeds, and colors met on Public Square for a “nonpartisan, interfaith event” organized by the Sisters of Mercy, the Peace and Justice Center, the Islamic Association of Northeast Pennsylvania, and the Jewish Community Alliance of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Echoing sentiments from peaceful demonstrations around the country, attendees chanted, “Say it loud! Say it clear! Refugees are welcome here!” as they held up handmade signs and colorful flags representing many countries, reminding residents that Northeastern Pennsylvania was founded by immigrants just as the rest of the country was.
The “Rally for Refugees and Immigrants” stressed unity and that “love Trumps hate,” as Rev. Paul Amara of the Plains United Methodist Church put it, noting that he was an immigrant himself. “I came here because I know that America is a great place to be.”
Christine Somers, director of Campus Ministry at Misericordia University, quoted Philadelphia-born anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
U.S. District Judge James Robart momentarily blocked Trump’s ban on Friday, but the legal fight over this – and plenty more of Trump’s controversial policies – has just begun for many across a deeply divided country.
Brittany Fortuna Boote is a resident of NEPA who started in front of the camera as a model and actress before photographing regional skateboard and music scenes, leading her to pursue her true passion as a photographer.