Some 200 San Diego demonstrators gathered Thursday evening to condemn discrimination against refugees and Islamophobic attitudes stemming from recent terror attacks.
Religious, labor, civil rights and political leaders were joined by a dozen supporting organizations on the West Plaza of the County Administration Building, together making a passionate plea for tolerance.
The demonstration was in response to threats and acts of violence made against Muslims in the days following the massacres in San Bernardino and Paris. The protesters were also reacting to Donald Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S.
“Somehow in these politics and in these times, we've turned the victim into the terrorist,” said Ahmed Bailony, a Syrian immigrant.
City Councilman David Alvarez served as one of the guest speakers Thursday, and staffers from other local, state and federal political offices came to show their support.
Organizers told NBC 7 that San Diego has been the launching point for the resettlement of 78,000 refugees. It is a point of pride among demonstrators and a message they would like to deliver to Congress.
“At the Congressional level, there is legislation that is being considered that could severely delay refugee settlement, that could also halt the process all together,” said Homayra Yusufi-Marim with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
During the interfaith gathering, participants said they see hate rhetoric and intolerance as the real enemy.
Isfahan Abeullhi, a Somali refugee, came to the U.S. to escape the war in his country. He said a fear of the unknown is causing acts of intolerance.
“If they took the time to learn more about what it means to be human, to have that mercy and compassion for those who may not share their beliefs, faith and background as you, there might be less fear,” he said.
There were similar stories among the crowd, but perhaps most in common was the collective desire for the unalienable rights entitled to all Americans.
A similar demonstration took place Tuesday night in Carlsbad as members of the Islamic, Jewish and Christian faiths gathered to call for peace and hold a candlelight vigil for the San Bernardino victims.