Thousands attend Muslim solidarity rally in Denver

Seth Bodine

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DENVER- Everyone from local poets and lawyers to Denver mayor Michael Hancock spoke to a crowd of thousands at a Muslim solidarity rally event Saturday afternoon.

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The rally was organized in a week following U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban, which prevents people from countries such as Syria and Iran from entering the U.S. The goal of the rally was to show support to the Muslim community.

Many held signs with statements such as “all are welcome” and “to save a life is to save all of humankind.”

Phoenix St. Nolde, an organizer and full-time Denver peace activist, decided to host the rally after receiving requests from the community.

St. Nolde, who identifies as a person of color, said they have been a full-time activist for five years. St. Nolde said they have felt discrimination throughout their life.

“The Muslim community is probably the closest community to people of color, where they’re actually seen as a physical threat because of how they look or present themselves,” St. Nolde said. “There’s not a lot of communities that deal with that. So, I really felt personally driven to immediately do something as soon as I found about (the travel ban).”

According to the Facebook event, around 9,000 people said they were going, and 20,000 said they were interested. St. Nolde said the Colorado community has been very peaceful and positive post-election.

“I’ve only seen a few groups of people who want to entertain violence or disrupt the peace,” St. Nolde said.

The Muslims in attendance of Denver’s Muslim and immigrant solidarity event take a moment to say their afternoon prayer before the speakers resumed, February 4, 2017 (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

The rally started off with with a sing-along with members of the hip-hop band the Flobots, and the crowd sang, “the refugees are welcome here.” Throughout the rally, the crowd chanted “this is what democracy looks like.”

Michael Hancock, mayor of Denver, gave a speech at the rally and brought a group of students from South High School onto the stage. He told the crowd he was inspired when he visited the school, and a student said Donald Trump should “acknowledge the humanity behind the people you’re talking about,” in response to the travel ban. He said young people should serve as a reminder of how the nation was made great.

Hancock expressed solidarity and support with the Muslim community.

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“Our city will stand with you,” Hancock said. “Our city is going to do everything that we can to protect our residents. We’ve got lawyers working to help us understand what our opportunities are.”

Joseph Salazar, a Colorado state representative, said there is no time to sit idly.

“We don’t have time anymore, for that elected official who sits there and says we need a moderator, that we need to be weak,” Salazar said. “That we can’t rise up for people because those politicians are sticking their heads in the sand while the world is burning around them, and I refuse to be that kind of politician.”

Salazar advocated to not get tired and “protest fatigue.”

He also talked about introducing the Ralph Carr bill, which he says will resist federal overreach. The bill, according to the Arvada Press, would prohibit the state from providing race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status or religious affiliation of a Colorado resident to the federal government for any illegal or unconstitutional purpose. It would also prohibit any assistance to federal government to create a registry for Colorado residents based on race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status or religious affiliation.

Hadeel Esmat, a sophomore math education and interdisciplinary liberal arts major at Colorado State University, as well as senior social work major Israa Eldeiry, both said they attended the rally for support and validation. Both said they went to previous rallies and events such as the march last Tuesday in Fort Collins.

“…So for Denver, which is a city bigger than Fort Collins, to have something this big with so many powerful speakers, it’s just empowering,” Esmat said.

Esmat said being with a supportive community was also a reason for attending.

“There’s so much negativity and hate in the media and everything, but we need to realize that there is still this huge community that still does want to support us,” Esmat said.

Eldeiry said she felt hopeful after attending the rally. Eldeiry said she believes rallies are important, but actions such as calling senators and reaching out to the Muslim community are important steps to creating change.

“I think these rallies are great catalysts for the start to change, but standing out here, as powerful as it is and how much hope it instills in us, there’s more steps to go,” Eldeiry said.

Esmat said she recently went to a high school to have discussions on topics such as what terrorism is. She said she believes part of moving forward is having uncomfortable conversations.

“It is conversations that are uncomfortable, but if we don’t step out of our comfort zones, we’re never going to move forward and make a better society and community for all of us,” Esmat said.

Collegian News Editor Seth Bodine can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @sbodine120.