The protesters began gathering around noon to rally against Friday’s executive order, which they called a Muslim ban, and the suspension of the refugee program.
“(Saturday) was horrendous,” said Karen Porter, a Carrboro resident who organized the rally.
“I mean, it’s heartbreaking. I have Muslim friends, one in particular who’s been here for many, maybe 30 years. I know she’s been afraid even before yesterday to go back and visit family in the Middle East. She’s always afraid that, ‘Maybe I’ll never get to see my mother again because I might (go) out and they won’t let me back in.’”
Laura Lyons and Stephanie Ingram, who are both from Winston-Salem, heard about the protest on Facebook and decided to drive to Chapel Hill.
“There were various places where there was going to be protesting the Muslim ban and various places all over the country are simultaneously doing this,” Lyons said. “This was the one closest to us.”
Ingram said she was saddened by the lack of young people she saw in the crowd.
“We’re in Chapel Hill and most of these people are over the age of 35 and that to me sends a message that our young people do not realize how vital it is that they have a voice in this,” she said.
Chad Bryant, a UNC history professor, said he came to support students that might be affected by the order.
“They are part of the community and I think it’s important to stand up for them,” he said. “They are not the people who are a danger to us in any way. In fact, they’re making us a better place, a better UNC, a better state, a better country and so on.”
Bryant said UNC’s administration should take a more active role in protecting those who feel excluded and vulnerable because of the order.
“The rhetoric of equating Mexican immigrants with criminals, with Muslims as terrorists, is nothing more than a politics of hate,” Bryant said. “Our chancellor needs to counter this politics of hate with a strong statement about who we are and what we stand for.”
In a Sunday evening statement about the order, Chancellor Carol Folt said UNC’s international community is essential and offered support.
Porter said she was surprised by the many different backgrounds of the people who came forward to speak.
“At first you worry nobody is going to come up, but they sort of grow on each other...People came up and spoke their hearts,” she said.
She said she hoped Sunday’s rally and events like it sent a message to Trump.
“Most of the people in this country don’t believe in the things that he’s talking about including things like yesterday — the Muslim ban,” Porter said. “We are not that kind of country. We just aren’t, and I just don’t think that he’s gotten that message yet. So our job is to give him that message.”