WASHINGTON ― A little less than a mile down Massachusetts Avenue from the vice president’s residence, on the strip known as Embassy Row, is the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C.
The mosque was dedicated by President Dwight Eisenhower. It’s the house of worship where President George W. Bush went six days after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 to declare “Islam is peace” and reassure Muslims in America that they should not live in fear.
“Those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take out their anger don’t represent the best of America, they represent the worst of humankind, and they should be ashamed of that kind of behavior,” Bush said.
Sunday evening, hundreds of Americans who felt that President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence had forgotten that message rallied in the dusk to remind them, marching up the hill from the mosque to Pence’s new home bearing candles.
The demonstrators wanted to tell Muslims they are welcome, and speak out against Trump’s executive order barring people from seven Muslim countries from entering the U.S.
“Starting here in front of the mosque in D.C., a block over from the vice president’s residence, is very symbolic,” said Shalani Malaki, an immigrant of Nigerian and Indian descent.
“I wanted to come out today to stand up to the hate that’s been shown by President Trump and his administration so far,” said Sean Redding of D.C., who had also marched earlier near the White House as numerous other demonstrations blossomed all over the country.
“I think America is a kind country, and I’m feeling that today,” Redding said.
Pence probably did not hear the chants of “Shame! Shame! Shame!” and “No hate, no fear, everyone is welcome here.” He might have noticed the flashing lights of the police escorts, or the horns of passing cars honking in support.
Either way, the marchers wanted to show the new administration and people who might want to come to America that immigrants are still welcome.
“We are here to support all immigrants and refugees who are trying to enter our country,” said Gillian Singer, a Tulane University student from Maryland who brought her parents along to protest.
“Being Jewish, and seeing these kind of xenophobic, racist bans, this kind of just craziness, it worries me, it really frightens me about what this man will do,” said her father, Paul Singer.
The Singers, like many others in the throng, pledged that Trump and Pence would be hearing from them again, and often.
“We have to keep reminding ourselves that this isn’t normal, and we need to keep fighting back,” Gillian Singer said. “All I have to say to Donald Trump is welcome to the next four years.”