Yesterday (June 26), the Supreme Court upheld the travel limits in President Donald Trump’s executive order colloquially known as the ”Muslim ban.” The first version of the order restricted people from seven Muslim-majority nations from coming into the United States for 90 days and suspended the U.S. refugee program for 120 days. In early March, after several district court injunctions, political tumult and a “no” vote from a U.S. appeals court, Trump issued a nearly identical order naming six Muslim majority nations instead of seven. District courts again blocked the order but the Supreme Court overruled them.  

As organizers challenge the  SCOTUS decision, it’s a good time to take a look back to January 28 and 29, when thousands of protesters descended on airports around the country demanding the release of detained travelers. At the heavily militarized and surveilled San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Arab and Muslim organizers led thousands to shut down the airport’s international terminal.

Although the rapid mobilization and handmade signs gave the protests an appearance of spontaneity, what ultimately made them successful was decades of deliberate community organizing, leadership development and movement-building led by Arab and Muslim organizations and their allies. One of those organizations is the Arab Resource Organizing Center (AROC). We interviewed executive director Lara Kiswani in early May about the unprecedented direct action at SFO.

Interview by Brooke Anderson and Pete Woiwode. Photography by Brooke Anderson. Introduction by Akiba Solomon.