Immigration Rally Through Kent Thomas' Eyes

In an instant, everything had changed. It was January 21st, the day after the Inauguration the first day that we all got to work. Some went to their jobs and supported on the sidelines, others tied their laces, picked up their posters, and drove to Seattle.

Sometimes, we are called to action organically and simply must follow through because seems like the right thing to do. For Kent Thomas, (the guy in pink) it meant participating in the infamous Immigration Rally at the Seatac airport on January 28th, the day after Donald Trump released an executive order banning the entry of immigrants from seven nations.

Thomas was among hundreds of protesters at the airport in a scene that began calmly and peacefully. As police stood off to the side keeping an eye on all the happenings, the protesters began to chant. Thomas recalls, “The beginning parts were peaceful and there was a calm sense from the officers and protesters. Two groups of protesters were separated by a middle line of police and later formed together as one group. When the police announced order for arrest if we stayed and did not leave, we asked them, ‘will the refugees be free? They replied with a ‘no’ and began to take action”. The video of the subsequent scene has now become viral and is horrific, to say the least. Officers picked people from the crowd to arrest and one of them was Kent, who was protesting peacefully and respectfully. I asked Kent what was going through his head and what the atmosphere felt like in that moment. His reply: “I was in shock when they were pushing me back…I felt a weird sense of confidence to stand my ground and keep standing strong...I think it was fueled by the reality that people were excited about arriving to the United States only to get here and be detained. These people are in a dire spot and I feel guilty on how angry I was to be detained as well. But I knew I would be getting out free. But for the refugees, they might not be as lucky”.

Since this rally, there have been numerous forms of protests that have sparked throughout our country. The question that still stands is, are these protests effective?. The answer is a definitive yes – protests are effective. Kent’s thoughts about the protest were plain and simple; “it is helping because it is still moving the issue forward and if I was a refugee I would be encouraged to see this happening and it shows many refugees that they do have allies. From the legal standpoint, it makes an impact for the Washington government to see their state take such action”.


What is the next step for change?

Kent: “I think it is the act of the resistance and continuing to talk about it and it is really important not to lose heart and take care of ourselves and each other. We need to keep showing up to protests. This was looked at as a sprint, but instead it is this marathon, and we need to keep going. “

So, what can people that are interested in speaking out, do to help? What are some ways that people can make a change or get involved?

Kent: “It’s so important to listen to what your personal strengths are and use them to help in times like these. Treat the people around you with love and support, and if you cannot march because of work or families you can still help. Teaching kids on what is important is helpful because they are the future generation. If we are people that have money lying around, we should donate to organizations that are standing up for what they believe in. We can also get involved in organizations that closely work with issues involving refugees and learn more about what is going on and ways we can be there to support and make change.


Sophie Kautz