When one imagines a protest, there is no doubt of the singular image that comes to mind: topless women and long-haired hippies walking in circles, waving profane signs and endlessly repeating painfully rhyming chants, turning violent at the first sign of opposition. Such portrayals can skew one against the idea of protests. However, the No Bans, No Walls protestors proved on January 31st, 2017 at Tim Cole Memorial Park that the people in the Friendliest City in America can protest successfully and peacefully. I wish to share with you my experience at the protest and shed some light on a new political movement in Lubbock, Texas.
The organizers of the No Bans, No Walls protest were Cagri Bakirci and Ashlee Taylor. Cagri is a Turkish student at Texas Tech University, currently working on attaining his PhD in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Biology. Ashlee is a Texan from the town of Callisburg, also studying at Tech for a PhD in Nutritional Sciences. Cagri and Ashlee have been engaged since November 11, 2016.
In my follow-up interview with Cagri, he stated: “The main reason behind the protest is that the citizens of 7 nations were named ‘terrorists’ by the Trump Administration’s Muslim Ban. Immigrants and refugees already go through an incredibly detailed and thorough investigation before being accepted to the USA. Evidenced by the fact that there have been zero attacks against the US in the past four decades by the citizens of any of the banned nations, it is an ill-thought decision with terrible implications.”
I heard about the protest through Facebook. Since my desire to be involved in political activism has increased lately, I decided to go. A friend of mine, and a former LCU student, Donald Darcy, accompanied me. We arrived at the park around five o’ clock PM, an hour before the protest was to begin. It was there that we met Cagri and Ashlee, and volunteered to help them any way we could. Since there was a need for people to give out signs to the protestors, Donald and I gladly stood by the table and passed out signs or helped people make their own. At first, there were very few people milling around the protest. But the turnout was much larger than we expected.
“We were blown away with the number of people who attended,” Ashlee told me in a follow-up interview. “I walked around and signed people in for over three hours and we still did not get everyone. We had over one thousand people in attendance! We were originally hoping for just thirty!”
More protestors began to arrive and lined around the curb of Tim Cole Memorial Park. Many international students from Yemen, Iran, Syria, and the other countries affected by Trump’s executive order came to voice their opinions. Standing with them was a diverse crowd of different backgrounds, races, nationalities, and sexualities. Some people brought their kids; some brought their dogs! As the sun began to set, we received thoughtful donations for making signs: markers, recycled poster boards from Lubbock’s Black Lives Matter protest, and even four pictures of famous immigrants. Still, at seven o’ clock, we were running low on materials because of the amount of people who showed up.
“We just started a Facebook event and shared it on a couple of pages and groups.” Cagri said. “It got traction very quickly, to the point that we managed to mobilize more than one thousand people to protest the Muslim Ban. It was all organized within forty-eight hours, but within that time we contacted the Police Department and many other organizations–churches, Muslim organizations, student clubs, media outlets, etc.–to make it a textbook protest for generations to come.”
The Lubbock Police Department watched over the proceedings, for our safety and the safety of others. Unfortunately, due to a slight miscommunication, some of the protestors and chanters were unaware that stepping into the street was a safety violation. LPD tried to contact us and said in their official statement that they were unable to make contact. After a beautiful statement from Cagri, one protestor stepped into the gutter of the street, causing the police to arrest her. The police then dispersed the protest at 7:55, five minutes before the protest was slated to end. While the interruption was a disappointment, we were able to quickly clean up to comply with the police. The protestor was released from jail the day after her arrest. Despite the abrupt end, the protest was still a giant success.
“We had complete strangers meeting and riding together to load a generator, people offering to bring free food to the event (Food not Bombs), others donating poster-making materials, supplying lighting equipment, bullhorns, and so on,” Ashlee said. “Countless people came together to make this event happen and helped us solve any issue that came up.”
At the end of the night, I felt good that I got to be a part of such a powerful message. On Tuesday evening, in our own town of Lubbock, more than one thousand people met together to peacefully announce their grievances toward the government. I never thought that I could be involved in something like this, but the voice of the people is growing stronger every day. We hear America singing; who would ever want to silence her?
So what are the plans for the future? Cagri stated, “We want to mobilize, or help others mobilize people to raise their ideas, opinions, and objections through protests. Protesting is one of the most important pillars of democracy; we need to revive that in the USA to have a healthy checks and balance system within our local, state, and federal governments.”
Ashlee said, “Our plan at this point is to move momentum from the night of the protest, even a fraction of it, to create a positive impact in our community, nation, and world through other ways of engaging in democracy besides just voting. We have formed a group called Lubbock Direct Action and we encourage people to join the movement.”
Those interested in joining the movement can join the Lubbock Direct Action group on Facebook, or contact Ashlee and Cagri for more information.
Photo Credit: Kimberly Correa