By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current
Several city officials joined a crowd of demonstrators in downtown Missoula on Friday night, asking U.S. Sen. Steve Daines to reconsider his support for President Donald Trump’s temporary ban on refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Before marching on the senator’s downtown field office, more than 200 people gathered in Caras Park, chanting “say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here.” Along they way, they asked Daines for a meeting, one they say has not been accepted.
“This is not an anti-Daines rally,” said Erin Erickson of Missoula Rising. “This is his constituents asking him to sit down, have a meeting, and discuss with us his position on the anti-Muslim ban. Listen to your constituents. Talk to your constituents. Represent us all.”
The rally comes less than a week after an estimated 500 people gathered in same downtown park to protest the president’s executive order temporarily banning immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.
This time, however, Mayor John Engen and Ward 6 City Council member Marilyn Marler added their voices to the mix, encouraging those in attendance to stand up for their vision of an inclusive America.
“Freedom is a marathon – tolerance is a marathon and justice is a marathon – and we’re in this marathon together,” Engen said. “People still matter in the U.S.A., and those people can be of any age, color, religion, shape, size or gender. It doesn’t matter. Missoula is a place where everyone is welcome. It’s been that way for a very long time, and it will be that way for a very long time.”
Before climbing the steps to Higgins Avenue and marching three snowy blocks to Daines’ office on Front Street, the rally delivered a series of speakers, including John Daniels, a pastor at First United Methodist Church, and Laurie Franklin, a student rabbi at Har Shalom.
Earlier in the day, the Montana Association of Rabbis called upon Trump to rescind his order, and for Sens. Daines and Jon Tester “to oppose the executive order in any lawful way possible.”
“In my mind, America is a county that’s strong and generous,” said Marler. “This president’s ban on Muslim refugees is cowardly. If it’s well intentioned, it’s still a statement of fear and cowardice, and if we act from fear, then we’ve fallen victim to terrorism.”
Over the last six months, roughly 46 refugees have arrived in Missoula, fleeing violence and persecution in Congo, Iraq, Syria and Eritrea.
Mary Poole of Soft Landing Missoula said that those refugees comprise 16 families who have become a part of the local community, enriching the city’s religious communities and adding perspective to its public schools.
America, Poole added, is at its best when it acts from compassion.
“That America, the one I believe in, has been threatened, but in no way is it lost,” Poole said.
Late on Friday, a federal judge in Seattle temporarily blocked Trump’s immigration order from being enforced. The order, for now, reopened the door to visa holders from the seven Muslim-majority countries named in Trump’s original order.
That news, however, wasn’t known when the protesters arrived at Daines’ office, where they were met by a local staffer who accepted their letters and petitions. The staffer said she would scan them and send them to Daines, who has stated his support for the president’s executive order.
“We are at war with Islamic extremists and anything less than 100 percent verification of these refugees’ backgrounds puts our national security at risk,” Daines said earlier. “We need to take the time to examine our existing programs to ensure terrorists aren’t entering our country. The safety of U.S. citizens must be our number one priority.”
Contact reporter Martin Kidston at email@example.com.