[DOWNTOWN] Closed borders, bodegas: Yemeni workers protest ‘Muslim ban’

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By Caroline Spivack

Brooklyn Daily

Talk about bodega heroes!

Yemeni deli workers protesting President Trump’s “Muslim ban” went on strike on Thursday and flooded Borough Hall Plaza, carrying flags from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen — and plenty of Old Glory. They were showing their dedication to the American dream, said one business owner.

“We are here to stay. We are the fabric of our communities, our city, and our country. People depend on us and our businesses, and we deserve to be here, our families deserve to come here, and we deserve respect.,” said Ahmed Abboud, who closed his Bay Ridge bodega earlier in the day and came down with his brothers and staff.

President Trump’s order suspends all refugee admissions for 120 days and blocks citizens of the seven countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days, except legal permanent residents.

Demonstrators packed in hours before the 5 pm kick-off, chanting “No ban, no wall, NYC for all” and “We stand together.” The rally began with an Islamic prayer followed by remarks from a slew of local pols and community activists urging solidarity.

“We are all Muslim today,” said Borough President Adams. “You have the right to your American dream. And to be part of what America stands for. And this sends a loud and clear message.”

Many at the rally said they have been in the U.S. for decades. But some were newer arrivals who came a few years ago fleeing political instability — only to jump out of one frying pan and into another.

The section of Bay Ridge jokingly called “Bay Root” for its sizable Middle Eastern community was a ghost town Thursday afternoon. More than a dozen Fifth Avenues businesses went dark for the rally, many of which with signs plastered in their storefront that read, “Refugees and Immigrants are welcome here. No Muslim ban. No border wall. Our communities stand tall.”

Taking a hit at the cash register was worth it to make a statement, one store owner said.

“I don’t even care that this is costing me,” said Hussein Bahar who co-owns a bodega with his brother in Sunset Park. “This is too important not to. How can I stay at home and not come out and defend myself? The people need to know we are upset.”

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at mspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.

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