American flags and colorful posters waved above the heads of people chanting, “No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here,” at a rally Thursday afternoon.
Students, faculty and alumni came together on the Central Library mall Thursday to speak out against the executive order limiting travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries. The event was organized by Progressive Student Union after the order was passed by President Donald Trump Jan. 27.
Civil engineering sophomore Kelleh Zarin played a part in the rally’s preparation, handing out flyers and helping draft a letter to UTA President Vistasp Karbhari requesting UTA’s role as a sanctuary campus.
“I came here to talk about our culture, the culture of the seven countries, to say that we are not bad people, we didn’t come to terrorize,” he said. “We came to build, we came to help America. We came here to find a home.”
The rally was part of a nationwide effort led by Academics United, a group of college students from multiple campuses who organized the event on Facebook. Students from 52 other campuses pledged to march at the same designated time, including Northeastern University and Purdue University.
The official color for the rally was white, and the organization requested all participants wear a white piece of clothing.
Attendees handed out white T-shirts with “immigrant” and “Muslim” on them, encouraging all who stopped and stared to join.
Zarin said he had many friends who did not know anything about the Middle East and only believe what they’ve heard in the media. He said he was not surprised to see the large crowd of people, because he knew UTA students stand together.
“Two of my best friends are Hispanic, and we share everything. We celebrate my holidays, we celebrate their holidays,” he said. “We familiarize each other with our culture and have fun while doing it.”
The large crowd drew interested looks, and multiple phone screens recorded the sights and sounds of peaceful dissent. Chants varied as the crowd passed through campus, eventually crossing the central bridge across Cooper Street toward the Fine Arts Building.
Sixteen years after feeling the disapproval of his race by fellow students in reaction to the 9/11 attacks, UTA alumnus Mehdi Dashti came back to the UTA campus to join the crowd of voices chanting against the immigration executive order.
Dashti came to study at UTA as a refugee. He was on campus in 2001 and experienced the effects the 9/11 attacks had on fellow students’ interaction with him. Now, he works at utilities company Oncor Electric Delivery.
Dashti said he used his knowledge to help America. The fanatic government in Iran would abuse his and other engineers’ knowledge to do bad things, such as building missiles against America.
Eventually the crowd moved to Davis Hall, where Karbhari works, and chanters stood on the lawns outside.
They sung “This Land is Your Land,” while two leaders entered the building. The representatives hoped to make an appointment with Karbhari at which time they would present a letter asking UTA become a sanctuary campus.
Nastaran Barati, material engineer and STEM graduate research assistant, came to the rally because the issue affected her directly. Barati cannot visit her sick mother in Iran because of the ban, and she no longer has a clear vision of her future.
“She’s always asking, ‘When are you going to come back to see me?’ and I have to say, I don’t know,''” she said. “When she’s nervous, she gets high blood pressure, and because of this news, she’s always checking. It makes her really bad. My family needs to take her to the hospital because of the high blood pressure.”
Barati said she applied for jobs in the engineering industry, but was refused by companies because they did not know if they could give the opportunity to someone of Iranian descent.
Worried thoughts about returning to her country has filled sleepless nights for Barati, but she said returning would waste the three years of time she’s spent in the U.S. Participating in the rally would help her voice be heard, she said.