Activists in New York City unfurled a massive banner across the base of the Statue of Liberty on Tuesday. The message, while perhaps lacking the lyricism of Emma Lazarus’ iconic “New Colossus,” could hardly be misinterpreted.
I spoke with David, one of the activists behind the banner (he declined to give his last name), who explained that the impetus for Tuesday’s protest started several weeks back, when the Trump administration unveiled its Muslim travel ban, which also temporarily shut down the entire American refugee program.
“This was first conceived in response to what’s been called the ‘travel ban’ of the Trump administration, which I think flies in the face of the founding principals of the United States,” he told to me over the phone.
“I think the Statue of Liberty is our best symbol of the role that immigrants have played and continue to play every day in this country,” he added later.
David said that, while unfurling the banner at the statue’s base, his group was met with overwhelmingly positive feedback from tourists—many of whom appeared to be from outside the United States—visiting at the time.
“We left, and as we were taking the ferry home, [the banner] was still hanging,” He explained. “I would imagine that the National Park Service staffers who also make this country great who are working there—I would be surprised if anyone who cares about the history of the Statue of Liberty did not agree with what we were saying.”
Reaction to the banner was overwhelmingly positive across Twitter, as well.
Tuesday’s act of protest comes in the midst of President Trump’s ongoing efforts to crack down on immigrant communities in the United States. On Tuesday, the White House issued guidelines stating clearly that the vast majority of the undocumented immigrant population is now at risk of deportation.
As David explained to me, the unfurling the banner at the Statue of Liberty wasn’t simply an isolated event, but rather part of a renewed wave of political action spurned on by Trump’s presidency.
“We’ve seen since the election in November a lot of people who’ve never been political before, feeling like they needed to do something,” he said. “And I think this is one thing that four people today did, but I think that we’re seeing that across the country in a lot of different ways. A lot of different people.”
Tuesday’s protest was in many ways similar to an earlier action by Greenpeace activists, in which they scaled a massive construction crane to hang a flag reading “Resist,” just behind the White House in Washington D.C.
Ultimately, David noted the banner’s message is simple.
“Muslims are welcome here, and refugees are welcome here, and the immigrant communities that are facing deportation raids are also welcome here,” he said.