After Cancelled Protest, Grad Students Call Congress

Snowy weather cancelled a demonstration planned for Thursday against President Donald Trump's immigration order, prompting graduate student organizers to trade protest signs for phone lines and urge students to contact Congressional representatives about the order.

The protest, called “Academics United - No to Visa and Immigration Ban,” was scheduled for noon Thursday in the Science Center Plaza. The event was one of 51 “Academics United” protests on college campuses across the country. Scholars from Harvard, Boston University, M.I.T., and Tufts University planned to attend before it was cancelled.

“I wanted to support it because there are so many people affected here at Harvard and so many people across the country who are immigrants and refugees,” said one Harvard graduate student who helped organize the protest. “Because of executive orders like this, there’s a lot of fear and anxiety.”

After cancelling the protest, organizers posted on the event’s Facebook page asking invitees to call members of Congress to voice disapproval of Trump’s recent executive order, which suspends travel and immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries. At least four Harvard affiliates were barred from entering the United States because of the order.

Mohammadreza Jalaeipour, another organizer of the event and a visiting fellow in Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, estimated that around 200 of the approximately 700 people who were planning to protest lobbied their representatives.


“Academics pay a high price for it, especially the ones who have been living here for a few decades now and have a livelihood and have dual citizenship,” Jalaeipour said.

A group of five graduate students from the order’s targeted countries arranged the event. Although many organizers are Iranian, Dokhani said that the goal of the event was to “be in solidarity” with students from the seven countries that the executive order affected.

Although graduate students organized the rally, the Harvard College Iranian Association, an undergraduate group, helped publicize it. The group also urged its members to call their representatives once the event was cancelled.

“I’ve been calling my Senators as an Iranian American and saying this is a hugely misguided order,” said Cameron K. Khansarinia '18, Co-President of the group. “Protests are great and really show defiance, but that means nothing if people don’t call their representatives, don’t speak to their representatives, and don’t vote.”

The rally is not graduate students’ first attempt to organize against the Trump administration. Organizers of the planned Harvard rally also helped students circulate a petition opposing the executive order to prominent American academics. Currently, the petition has over 42,000 signatures from academics, including 62 Nobel Laureates.

Hours after Harvard students called members of Congress about Trump’s executive order, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to continue blocking the order. The stay passed against the order will remain in place, at least temporarily.

Organizers of the rally said that, even though the court upheld the stay, they would continue protesting the order. Describing the executive order, Jalaeipour said, “After 90 days, if Trump chooses to extend it, there will be a need for other rallies and collective resistance.”

— Staff writer Caroline S. Engelmayer can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @cengelmayer13.


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