JANESVILLE, Wis. - A large group gathered Saturday afternoon to march against House Speaker Paul Ryan’s support of President Donald Trump’s recent travel ban.
Showing Up for Racial Justice planned the protest and estimated around 1,000 people showed up.
“It says to me that all of us are in this together and that all of us will stand together,” John McMahon, one of the event organizers, said.
Janesville police estimated the crowd size was more around 500 people but said it was one of the largest protests the city has ever seen.
“I was amazed when we turned the corner. It was like, ‘Whoa, that’s something else, and I want to be a part of it’,” Linda Borgwardt, who came out to the march with a pink “Deport Trump” sign, said.
The event started with a rally at Jefferson Park with speakers from the community. Assad Mirza, who is Muslim and an immigrant, was one of the speakers.
“I think it’s time that we need to take this stigma, this fear about Islam, about Muslims, away,” he said. “We are just like any other American. We are productive members of society, and we want to continue to grow with the country.”
After the rally, the protesters marched about half a mile to Ryan’s Janesville Constituent Services Center. The group chanted several phrases, including “no ban, no wall,” “this is what democracy looks like,” and “no hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here.”
“I just think that our representatives need to hear loudly and clearly that the vast majority of Americans are deeply disturbed by the rhetoric and just like the style and the method of policy making we’ve seen so far just in the first week and a half or so of Trump’s presidency, and we’re not going to stand for it,” Megan Miller, an event organizer, said.
People of all ages, races and religions came together for the protest. They had a moving picket line down Main Street for about an hour. Protesters then stood outside Ryan’s office chanting.
“This is not simply about one religion or one race. It’s for all of us,” Mirza said. “If you look at the history of America, we’re all immigrants here, and this country has been so good for us. Why change now? The strength of our country is based off diversity, based off the immigration that we had over all these years. So why change now?”
Ryan's press secretary responded to an email for comment by referring News 3 to Ryan's comments from earlier in the week when he said, "This is not a Muslim ban. If it were, I would be against it."
The Janesville Police Department said the protest was very peaceful. There were no arrests, injuries or property damage. Police said about 50 first responders helped with security for the event from the police department, Rock County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Capitol Police and Janesville Fire Department.
Another demonstration was scheduled in front on Ryan’s office for Sunday afternoon. Protesters planned to gather to speak out against Ryan’s plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.
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