Police: Dozens of people peacefully demonstrated near Charlotte airport

Dozens gather at CLT for executive order protest
Published: Jan. 29, 2017 at 9:28 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 29, 2017 at 11:42 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Protesters gathered for a second day near the Charlotte Douglas International Airport to protest President Donald Trump's Executive order on a travel ban. Dozens of people gathered Sunday afternoon along Wilkinson Boulevard near Josh Birmingham Parkway, a busy intersection for airport travelers.

The order, signed by President Donald Trump Friday, included a 90-day ban on travel to the U.S. by citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen. It also suspended the U.S. refugee program for four months.

"All immigrants are welcome here in our city, and in our country. All refugees are welcome in our city and our country," said Jibril Hough, a protester and spokesman from the Islamic Center of Charlotte.

A federal judge in New York has issued an emergency order temporarily barring the U.S. from deporting people from nations subject to President Trump's temporary ban on refugees from some Muslim countries. The complaint was brought by the ACLU.

Several protesters tell WBTV they're hopeful this ruling is a good first step to getting rid of the ban.

"I hope this is the first step, and that the administration realizes that this is an inhumane solution," said Grace McLain, a protester.

RELATED ARTICLE: Tears and detention for US visitors as Trump travel ban hits

The administration downplayed the ruling in terms of its effect on the executive order.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police estimated more than 60 people took part in what it called a peaceful demonstration.

"The CMPD and the Airport worked with organizers earlier in the day, reviewed the ordinance and assisted them in identifying a location for protestors," officials said. "The CMPD allowed protestors to gather at the corner of Wilkinson Boulevard and Josh Birmingham Parkway and were on hand to ensure the safety of the protestors due to the proximity of traffic."

One of those people taking part in Sunday's demonstration was Faraz Hedayati.

Hedayati is a PhD student at UNC-Charlotte from Iran, one of the countries included in the ban. He tells WBTV this ban is unnecessary.

"We are helping the nation to be a better place. We are not a threat to the U.S. We are a peaceful people," Hedayati said.

For Hedayati, this ban hits particularly close to home. His father is still in Iran.

"My dad has a valid visa. I haven't seen him for two years. He cannot come here and visit me," Hedayati said.

CMPD thanked the organizers of the protest "all of whom did an exceptional job of working with Airport officials and the CMPD, which played a critical role in keeping our community safe."

The peaceful protest followed a late night protest inside the Charlotte airport Saturday night that ended with six people being arrested.

Investigators in Charlotte said they were made aware of the possibility of local protests via social media and had officers on standby.

Around 9:00 p.m. Saturday, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police's Airport Division and airport officials encountered a small group of peaceful protesters in the baggage claim area.

According to police, about 50 protesters formed in two distinct groups. A small group was protesting immigration and presidential executive orders. An additional group arrived and was protesting community-related issues.

MOBILE USERS: Click here to see photos of protesters gathered and mugshots of those arrested

The protests began peacefully, but according to police, turned more aggressive and caused a disturbance in the airport terminal.

Airport officials informed the group that they were in violation of Chapter 4 of the City Code, Article 3. Because of public safety concerns, City Code has different requirements for demonstrating at the airport.

The group was asked to leave and some of the demonstrators refused. Officers arrested six people and charged them all with trespassing. Two of the people were also charged with resisting arrest.

  • Dhruv Pathak, 23, Second Degree Trespass
  • Samantha Valdez, 24, Second Degree Trespass
  • Eleanor Everette, 16, Second Degree Trespass
  • Michael Johnson, 24, Resist, Obstruct and Delay, Second Degree Trespass
  • Gloria Merriweather, 24, Second Degree Trespass
  • James Marsicano, 23, Resist, Obstruct and Delay, Second Degree Trespass

According to police records, all of the people arrested Saturday night have previous charges in Mecklenburg County related to other cases.

Johnson was previously arrested in September during the Keith Lamont Scott protests. Eleanor Everette and James Marsicano were both arrested during protests in late November when the results of the Scott shooting investigation were made public.

Merriweather, Valdez and Pathak have all been charged since mid-October in unrelated incidents.

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