A Week Into Trump's Travel Ban, Statehouse Vigil Shows Support for Immigrants and Refugees

Feb 3, 2017

Standing before a group at the Statehouse plaza Friday afternoon, Rob Spencer, of Concord, recounted how his parents left Austria to escape the Nazis and arrived in America as refugees.

That was part of the reason he showed up wearing a bright gold star pinned to his jacket, just above his heart.

“I decided to make a Jewish star and to carve out in it a crescent and a cross, to say that if Trump registers Muslims the way Hitler registered Jews, I will wear it to remind him that both Christianity and Islam were cut from the same cloth as Judaism,” Spencer said. “We all stand together.”

Spencer was part of a crowd of more than a hundred who huddled around the arch of the Statehouse Friday afternoon for a vigil to show support for immigrants and refugees.

Emily Karmen, of Warner, organized the gathering in response to Trump's executive order last week, which banned immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. As an English as a Second Language teacher at Second Start in Concord, she’s seen firsthand how the order has stirred up fear and uncertainty among her students.

“I felt it was my duty to honor my students and the other immigrants and refugees and Muslims here in the state of New Hampshire,” Karmen said, “and stand in solidarity with them, and get a big crowd, so a lot of people can see that there’s a great resistance.”

The rally drew testimony from local refugees who resettled in New Hampshire, immigration activists, clergy and others who simply wanted to let their neighbors know all are welcome, regardless of faith or nationality.

Hubert Mask, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Concord, was one of a number of speakers at Friday's vigil.
Credit Casey McDermott, NHPR

  Hubert Mask, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Concord, a majority of those who worship with the group are immigrants or refugees themselves.

“I have doctors. I have professionals. I have everyone,” Mask said. “And that's what makes this country strong. And when people start isolating themselves and saying people don’t contribute, that’s a problem. That’s a real problem.”

Mask arrived to the Statehouse vigil right on the heels of his group’s Friday prayer services — where he was overwhelmed to see more than 100 in attendance, many of them new faces who turned out as a gesture of support.

One of those first-timers was Sarah Robinson, of Concord, who had also spent the day wearing a hijab for the first time in her life.

"I wanted to show my solidarity for my neighbors who choose to wear it out in public when it's a really divisive climate," Robinson explained.

A self-described "middle-class white girl from New Hampshire," Robinson said she was almost bracing to defend herself when she went out to run errands today, worried about comments she might receive along the way. To her great relief, she didn't need to defend anything.

"I was pleasantly surprised that all of my encounters were gracious and happy to help. That was a very nice reassurance about our community," Robinson said. "And I like wearing scarves anyway. It’s beautiful. I think they’re beautiful. So I’m happy to wear it."