It was not even 24 hours ago that Sophia Said, director of the Interfaith Center; City Director Kathy Webb; and others decided to organize a protest of Donald Trump’s executive order that has left people from majority-Muslim countries languishing in airports or unable to come to the US at all — people with visas, green cards, a  post-doc graduate student en route to Harvard, Google employees abroad, families. I got the message today before noon; others didn’t find out until it was going on. But however folks found out, they turned out in huge numbers, more than thousand men, women and children, on the grounds of the state Capitol to listen to speakers from all faiths and many countries.

Said, the emcee, said she asked herself last night if people would have the energy to stage one more protest of the president’s awful policies, this one to protect us from “terrorists” — like those two American citizens in Chicago and the Iraqi interpreter who worked with the U.S military for a decade. She concluded, rightly, that people cared, and she had to act.


Said and Episcopal priest Susan Sims Smith prayed. Former Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Annabelle Clinton Imber Tuck spoke as a member of Temple B’nai Israel, read a statement expressing outrage at Trump’s action and said, “As Jews we know the impact of religious profiling.”  Speakers included a woman whose husband was so proud to get his letter of citizenship saying, “congratulations from the United States of America,” who has brothers and sisters in Yemen he hasn’t seen in five years and whose mother weeps when they Skype for fear they’ll never see one another again. A young Arkansas woman who is a “Muslim, a lawyer and a patriot” and who lamented the professionals and soldiers — heroes — being prohibited from entering the country under Trump’s ill-conceived executive order. A man from Syria who is a doctor here; his brother was killed by a sniper, and his sister was forced to leave her home because of the bombing in their native country, who spoke of people so desperate to leave they risked those overcrowded, leaky boats, many drowning. A wife whose husband immigrated to the U.S. from Syria and is a cardiologist at the Veterans Administration hospital, healing American vets.

Interspersed between the speeches was the call and response: Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like.


Rita Sklar, the executive director of the Arkansas ACLU, was nearly in tears as she addressed the group, telling them of the work of the ACLU in the past 24 hours to stop Trump’s order. She asked the group that if they know people being detained, to let their local ACLU chapter to know (here: She also told the crowd that democracy also looks like contacting Arkansas’s congressional staff no matter what you think their reaction will be, and to do it “again and again and again.”

“I am the granddaughter of Russian Jewish immigrants, and today, until the end of this trouble, I am Muslim with all of you,” Sklar declared.


State Rep. Clarke Tucker recited the Beatitudes he’d heard in church this morning, and pointed out to the crowd the elected officials among them who supported them: Webb, legislators Warwick Sabin, Will Bond, and Joyce Elliott; former Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, Judge Wendell Griffin. (Gen. Wesley Clark was also in the crowd). “What President Trump did was against the law,” Tucker said. He caused suffering and what he did “breaks faith with the American spirit. … The American dream is not restricted to people born in American, and if you love this nation, you are a patriot no matter where you were born.”

State Sen. Elliott injected a darker note into the talks, saying she was thinking about her own ancestry:  “Do not forget that the very DNA of this country is the separation of families who look like mine.” So, she warned, we should not be caught by surprise at such hateful actions as those of Trump’s, but must instead be always prepared to fight them.