In Donald Trump’s America, there may be no more weekends — just an incessant cycle of shocks, of actions and reactions. For the second weekend in a row, Friday to Sunday was wall to wall with resistance and outrage.
On Friday, President Trump signed an executive order banning people from seven nations in the Middle East and Africa from entering the United States.
On Saturday, protesters began heading to the airports to welcome international travelers, some of whom were detained for hours without access to lawyers.
On Sunday, thousands pushed peacefully against the fences around the White House in protest of Trump’s order. The signs spelled out embarrassment and resolve — and a cheeky self-awareness that only Washington can muster.
“SHAME ON AMERICA.”
“DEATH TO FASCISM.”
“PROTEST IS THE NEW BRUNCH.”
Is this what we’re in for, even on weekends? Will every news alert force us to ask ourselves who we are or send us out into the streets in a spontaneous counterattack?
You were out drinking, or at home playing Cards Against Humanity, when suddenly you were wondering how many Syrian refugees you could hide in your basement. Or how many hours you could drive for a protest. Or maybe the Islamic State has made you so panicked that you greeted the weekend’s news with relief: Finally, you thought, we are safe, and all these new walls will only make us safer.
Either way, this weekend didn’t feel like a drill. This was no longer, “What would you do if?” Something profound was happening, under the auspices of “extreme vetting.” It felt like time to figure out what kind of person you were, or would become.
As the president signed the executive order at the Pentagon, it quickly began to resemble, for many, the Muslim ban he once proposed on the campaign trail.
Lawyers set up legal triage centers on the floors of airports.
More than 356,000 people clicked “donate” on the website of the American Civil Liberties Union between Saturday and Sunday.
Friends sent up flares on Facebook: “If I know you and you need a recommendation letter for your citizenship application or green card, message me immediately.”
Others uncapped Sharpies and took to poster board: “IMPEACH PRESIDENT BANNON” and “FIRST THEY CAME FOR THE MUSLIMS AND WE SAID ‘HELL NO.’ ”
This weekend was a call to action or, for some, a call to reflection. A call to examine the choices we made — to reaffirm them or to question them, quietly and to ourselves.
On the Eastern Shore of Maryland, a sales representative named Marcus sat in his bedroom Saturday, by his Donald Trump poster, and watched his Facebook feed fill with photos of protesters at John F. Kennedy International Airport, where even taxi drivers briefly went on strike in solidarity.
“This is discrimination,” thought Marcus, who had voted for Trump because he thought he would make good deals for America. “Trump is not seeing Muslim people as equals.”
In a split-level in Bethesda on Saturday night, Caitlin Moriarty was opening her home to 20 friends and strangers who came to write postcards to senators expressing dismay over the border wall with Mexico and the travel ban.
“This is the first time I’ve been overtly politically active in my life,” said Moriarty, 46, a high school teacher. “And I think that comes from a sense of not acting doesn’t seem like an option. . . . So this is all disturbing, but also exciting.”
A few time zones west, in Blackfoot, Idaho (population 12,000), a 20-year-old named Chelsey Waddell was feeling heartbroken. Like 65.6 percent of Bingham County, she had voted for Trump, and supported the concept of increased scrutiny at the borders.
“My friends who supported Hillary kept telling me to turn on the television and see what was going on, see what I started,” Waddell said. “So I did, and the kids in the ban — I just can’t. I care about kids a lot. The adults can take of themselves, but the kids . . . ”
In Washington, Trump had wrapped up his first official call with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He skipped that night’s black-tie dinner of the Alfalfa Club, the elite gathering of moguls and politicos, but sent Vice President Pence in his place.
The president is “going to build a big, beautiful, impenetrable wall,” Pence said, according to Axios, setting up a joke that riffed on Wednesday’s order to build a wall on the Mexican border. The wall is “gonna be nine feet tall, and it’s gonna run right between the West Wing and the press corps. And the New York Times is going to pay for it.”
That night, after a federal judge in New York signed an injunction against the executive order, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani (R) went on Fox News. “This last week, I think, has been a week where [Trump] has done more than Roosevelt did in 100 days,” he said triumphantly.
Over at Dulles, a heartsick Iranian mother was reunited with her 5-year-old son, who was detained for several hours. A few hours later, just after midnight, Ivanka Trump tweeted a photo of herself and husband Jared Kushner in formal attire. The social-media hordes stormed the tweet as if it were the Bastille.
“Only in America could the Kushners go in just two generations from desperate refugees to shutting out desperate refugees,” tweeted journalist Jon Schwarz.
On Sunday morning, Rachel Burns came to Washington from Arlington to protest. This wasn’t even a protest of the immigration ban, but a previously scheduled one against Trump’s nominee for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, in the shadow of the Capitol dome, a dull white against the hazy winter sky.
“We know the Constitution,” said Burns, 38, of her fellow Washingtonians. She was wearing a Wonder Woman costume and was accompanied by her husband and two kids. “We can take the Metro to the Archives and see it. So it’s very dangerous to mess with people in D.C., because we’re very smart, we know protocol, and we know right from wrong.”
Meanwhile, a Boeing 777 was preparing for descent. It had left the seaside city of Jiddah at 6:48 a.m. Saudi time Sunday. It had flown over Greece, where refugees from Iraq and Syria have washed ashore, and over Germany, whose chancellor explained the Geneva Conventions to Trump during a phone call a few hours earlier. It had crossed the Atlantic and flew over Ottawa, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had that day tweeted a photo of himself welcoming a young refugee to Canada. And after 13 hours in the air and with an unknown number of potential detainees on board, Saudia Airlines Flight 35 landed at 12:07 p.m. Sunday in a country that was beside itself with anxiety.
Attorneys were waiting.
“Are there any detainees that we know of?” one asked another, as the arrivals board showed Flight 35 had landed at Washington Dulles International Airport.
“We don’t know,” the other replied. “They’ll have to go through customs. It will still probably be 30 minutes.”
The lawyers waited at the ready, with boxes of documents, papers, a portable printer, hand-scrawled name tags, and a sign that said “Free Legal Assistance at Baggage Claim 13.”
“Immigration lawyers know: We have been pushing this rock up hill for so long, but this moment feels huge,” said Mirriam Seddiq, an Afghan American immigration attorney from Maryland, gesturing to the cheering supporters. “Look at all of this. Last night they were chanting, ‘Let them see their lawyers.’ Nobody ever chants for lawyers. Everyone is realizing this is something.”
At the White House, a protest that had been organized via Facebook less than two days earlier was getting underway, drawing thousands from the region. Protests also erupted in Boston, Detroit, Louisville, Omaha and Nashville.
“I did three tours in Afghanistan,” said John Lee, a resident of Southwest Washington, who wore a camo vest emblazoned with the words “NOT WHAT I FOUGHT FOR.” Now, he said, “the values I was fighting for over there are being trampled here.”
Around 1 p.m., the first passenger from Flight 35 emerged from customs at Dulles: a middle-aged woman in a velour track suit and matching blue headscarf, pushing a luggage cart and scanning the crowd. She had not been detained — perhaps she was from Saudi Arabia, which was not on Trump’s list of banned countries — but she got an effusive reception anyway from ralliers.
“We love you!” the first sign-holder called to her, and the woman shook her head in confusion at the unexpectedly warm welcome. The friends who had come to meet her, also in headscarves, ran over, wrapping their arms around the passenger, helping her with the luggage cart. “It was okay,” she murmured. “All okay.”
“Welcome to America,” another sign-holder shouted to her. “This land is your land.” And the woman burst into tears.
This story has been updated with the final weekend donation tally for the ACLU.