New York Yemeni Bodegas Close in Reaction to Trump’s Travel Ban

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In a peaceful demonstration against Trump’s immigration ban, over 1,000 Yemeni-owned Bodegas  and grocery stores closed down from 12pm to 8pm on Thursday 23rd February.

Writing on Facebook, organisers said the shutdown was ‘intended to be a public show of the vital role these grocers and their families play in New York’s economic and social fabric’. Many Yemenis have been directly affected by the ban, and used the closedown to spend time with their families and loved ones to support each other. A rally was also held at Brooklyn Borough Hall, where some merchants shared the personal impact the Ban has had on them and their loved ones.

The planned demonstration was in protest against Trump’s controversial immigration ban, which affected many Muslim Americans. Yemenis in particular decided to protest because they wanted to exhibit the importance of their presence in the US. Without their bodegas, they claimed that their economy would suffer significantly. In recent times, bodegas have become famed for their reputation as informal gathering spots. I personally recall A$AP Rocky’s critically-acclaimed ‘Peso’ music video released in 2011 and set in Harlem, in which Rocky and his friends hang out outside their local bodega. This shows the importance that they hold in New York in regards to creating a communal feel within neighbourhoods, along with emphasising their cultural value in society.

Trump’s executive order banned immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Yemen, from entering the US. Mohammed Almashmally, originally from Sana’a – the capital of Yemen – token Al-Jazeera: ‘we [Yemeni residents of the US] love this country. I don’t know why he came up with these laws. I have friends who have been sent back from JFK and people stuck in Djibouti and Malaysia, all over.’ He said this whilst standing with his two young sons, exacerbating the suffering that many Muslim-Americans are experiencing. As a consequence of Trump’s immediate ban, families have been split and friends have been separated. Amjed, who was born in Yemen, also spoke of his mother’s luck at returning a week before the ban was implemented. However, whilst this can be celebrated, he added that other members of his family are still stuck in Yemen attempting to get visas.

These struggles act as an archetype of not only what Yemeni Americans are going through, but also what American Muslims are experiencing on a wider scale. During the protest, over 2,000 people gathered at Brooklyn Borough Hall. In the middle of the crowd, 12 year old Ahmad Shehan is quoted shouting ‘New York City is for everybody. Trump is garbage. He’s crazy. I study in my home every day.’ After moving from Yemen only a year ago, Shehan’s attitude is similar to many Americans and people around the world.

Tensions were also increased between Yemeni Americans and Trump because of his approval of a miscalculated raid on Yemen. Initially, US forces denied that there were any civilian casualties, however, it has been made clear that at least 10 women and children were killed. Anonymous US military officials have since claimed that Trump didn’t have adequate intelligence or ground support for the operation, leading to it becoming a public scandal in some quarters. This operation, along with Trump’s immigration ban, led to the Yemeni Americans breaking their silence and exposing the injustices that they are experiencing in an attempt to progress towards equality in America.

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