Before joining hundreds of demonstrators who flooded into O’Hare International Airport for a second night of protests against a broad migrant ban imposed by President Trump, an overflow crowd gathered at Morton Grove’s Muslim Community Center (MCC) and marched through town. Police said it was the largest political demonstration in the village’s recent memory, as more than 500 people sang, carried signs and spoke out against Islamophobia and Trump’s executive action on immigration.
The rally had been in the works for months, planned as a multi-faith rally and press conference against Islamophobia and organized by an interfaith coalition including Muslim, Christian and Jewish groups. But Friday’s executive order by Trump shocked the community and mobilized a crowd that surprised organizers.
“The numbers and enthusiasm here far outstripped anything we’ve done before,” said Carol Muskin, one of the organizers of the Network Against Islamophobia, a project of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and co-sponsor of the event. “I think we’ve really consolidated our networks across a number of faith and advocacy organizations,” she added.
“It’s only effective because we work together,” said Dilnaz Waraich, co-chair of the MCC’s interfaith and outreach committee and one of the event’s organizers, “Let’s say we just had a bunch of JVP people doing something, a bunch of MCC, it just wouldn’t be effective.”
Waraich said she was heartened to see the community come together across faiths to make new friends and allies, “It was so nice, the person with the yarmulke was talking to the person with the hijab.” But despite taking comfort from the strong turnout and broad community support, “Now it’s like, ‘Oh my God, we have so much work to do.'”
The event began with prayers and a performance by Niles West High School Choir. As they sang “We Shall Overcome,” musical director Matthew Hunter cued the crowd to add a new refrain, “We will not be detained.”
After the 1.5 mile march returned to the MCC, Representative Jan Schakowsky (D, IL-9) gave a fiery address to a packed gymnasium, promising to stand with any group that the Trump Administration targeted.
“If, God forbid, they build a registry for Muslims, we are all Muslims!” Schakowsky said to the cheering crowd. “As a proud Jew, as a proud daughter of immigrants to the United States,” she said, “We must stand together. If we need to, we will all be Mexicans! We will all be Dreamers!” Inviting the crowd to join her at Sunday’s O’Hare demonstration, she promised more protests to come, “This is the resistance!”
Attendees came from throughout the area, including seniors and toddlers. Mohammad Chohan immigrated from India 35 years ago, but until he traveled to Morton Grove from his Itasca home, he’d never attended a political demonstration. But the threats to the American Muslim community has never been greater, “not even after 9/11,” he said.
“It’s amazing, thanks to Donald Trump. He tried to divide us but it’s actually brought us together,” said Maleka Qureshi, who traveled from Chicago to attend the event with a friend and her friend’s two children, aged 4 and 6, “We are teaching the kids to stand for equality.”
After the event concluded, many of the demonstrators headed to O’Hare’s international terminal. A crowd gathered to hear speeches from local leaders and tables of volunteer attorneys continued to offer legal assistance to anyone being detained by Customs and Border Protection.