Franklin Residents Join Hundreds Rallying In Somerville Against Trump Immigration Ban, Border Wall

Mayor Phil Kramer and Board of Education member Ardaman Singh (left and second to left) were among the Franklin Township residents who spoke and attended the Feb. 4 rally and candlelight vigil in Somerville.

SOMERVILLE – Franklin Township representatives were among those taking center stage at a Feb. 4 rally and candlelight vigil here protesting Pres. Donald Trump’s immigration restrictions and plan to build a wall on the Mexican border.

Those from the township who spoke from the steps of the Historic Courthouse were Mayor Phil Kramer, the Rev. Tiina Nummela of the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Pastoral Care Department, Foday Mansaray of the West African Community Foundation and Alex Kharazi of the Franklin Township Interfaith Council and the Masjid-e-Ali Mosque.

Among those from the township attending the rally, but not speaking, were Township Councilwoman Roz Sherman (D-Ward 2), Township Councilman Charles Onyejiaka (D-Ward 3), Board of Education member Ardaman Singh, Environmental Commission member Arnold Schmidt, Patricia Mansary and Dauda Jawara Mansaray of the West African Community Foundation, and community activists Johnny Tibbs and Linda Powell.

The rally, which drew several hundred people – many of whom came bearing placards – was organized by the Somerset County Democratic Committee and its Young Democrats’ caucus, with caucus co-presidents Joe Forte and Pat O’Connell – the latter a township resident – at the helm of the rally.

The evening’s target was Trump and his ban of immigrants from seven Muslim-majorty countries, his overall executive order on immigration and his plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.

“We’re gathered here because we are concerned about the direction that our country seems to have taken, turning inwards, ignoring the world community,” Rev. Nummela said to start off the proceedings. “We’re gathered here because we, regardless of our religious preference or maybe lack thereof, are aware of our obligation to act as neighbors to all people regardless of their national origin, the color of their skin or the religion they profess.”

“As we gather, may we become a community that is inspired by righteous anger, that moves us to action,” she said. “May we become a community that is inspired by love that knows no boundaries. May we become a community that is blessed in our common cause to welcome the stranger as our sister and our brother. May we be blessed in our efforts to become a beloved community.”

Kramer in his comments tried to rally the crowd to become involved in future actions and elections.

“The song goes, God bless America, land that I love, stand beside her and guide her and that’s the key phrase of this, stand beside her and guide her, and that’s what we are doing tonight,” Kramer told the cheering crowd.

“When I grew up and I was reading about Japanese internment and slavery and what we did to our native Americans, I thought to myself, if I was there, if I was alive at that time, I would have stood up against them,” he said. “We are all called tonight to stand up against it. This is our time to stand up against it. We cannot put up with this.”

“We are called and we are asked to come out,” Kramer said. “We’re not here tonight just to protect Muslims. We’re here to protect the next group, and the next group and the final thing we are here to protect is America. We have a calling, please join all of us, answer that calling.”

Mansary, a Sierra Leone native, had a message for his fellow immigrants to the United States.

“Immigrants, you stand here as a testimony that you will continue to fight the fight to make sure the next generation has a place to stand to fight for the next generation,” he said.

Kharazi, a native of Iran, noted that he came to the U.S. 40 years ago on a student visa and said that Trump’s ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries is denying many “the opportunity that my wife and I and some of you and your ancestors were given years ago.”

“I have often said in gatherings that we are all equal in humanity,” Kharazi said. “This gathering, and gatherings like this across the nation, are testaments that we can embrace our deepest moral values and commit to love each other regardless of our color of skin, faith, gender and sexual orientation.”

“All the scriptures call for loving neighbors, helping the vulnerable and standing up for justice,” he said. “The executive order undermines all these principles and does not make us and the world a safer place. This order creates fear among peopel and divides out community. We are worried that this may be just the beginning.”

“A wall cannot make America great,” Kharazi said. “Building bridges among different faiths, different communities and different nations does.”

“Your presence here is testament that we can be united as different tribes and live in peace,” he said to cheers.

2017 Anti-Ban Rally 2-4-17


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