Student-organized Lexington Rally Supports Immigrants, Opposes Travel Ban

Feb 6, 2017

A crowd of at least a thousand gathered Sunday in downtown Lexington to show support for immigrants and refugees and disapproval of President Trump’s ban on travel from seven predominantly-Muslim nations.

The rally went forward despite a federal judge’s “stay” of the president’s executive order. It was organized by area high school and college students. It included remarks by representatives of the local religious and civil rights leaders and elected officials including 13th District State Senator Reggie Thomas.

Thomas said he supports protecting the U.S. from terrorists but such “vetting” should include all countries that espouse terror, “It leaves out Saudi Arabia. It leaves out Pakistan.  It leaves out other countries where terrorists have really caused harm to America. So this ban is inherently biased and discriminatory.”

Sunday's rally was organized by area high school and college students, including 18-year-old Eman Gohneim. She’s a University of Kentucky freshman, “Nobody thought that something like this would become so big. We had so many amazing organizations reach out to us today and tell us that they wanted to help and that they were supporting us and it honestly feels amazing to see the people of Lexington here united with us because they know this is wrong.”

Ghoneim and her 16-year-old sister were among nine students who came up with the idea of the rally following the president’s executive order a week ago Friday.  While both were born in the US, their grandparents emigrated here from Libya and Egypt.

One of the speakers before the crowd estimated at at least a thousand was Ihsan Bagby, an Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Kentucky. He says, if the U.S. wants to thwart terrorism, it should work closely with the Islamic community, “They’re the ones who can best spot problems and work with law enforcement.”

Speakers cautioned that, while the president’s order is “stayed” by court order, there will likely be continuing legal battles as the administration attempts to reinstate the ban on travel from seven countries that went into effect a week ago Friday.

Following an interfaith prayer and blessing, the crowd at Lexington’s Courthouse Square was asked to join in singing the well-known Woody Guthrie tune, This Land is Your Land.