Washington, DC – Thousands of people rallied nationwide on Monday to protest against the national emergency US President Donald Trump declared last week to help fund his long-promised wall across the US-Mexico border.
More than 250 rallies were organised across the United States on President’s Day, a US government holiday, with protesters carrying banners and placards that called the national emergency “fake”.
“I do think we have a national emergency in this country, this is an emergency to our democratic system,” Angelina Huynh, who joined the rally in Washington, DC, outside the White House with her two preschool children, told Al Jazeera.
As the snow fell in Boston, Massachusetts, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley took to the stage to speak against Trump’s bid to bypass Congress and help free up $8bn in funds for his wall, which was one of his biggest 2016 campaign promises.
Protesters and civil rights organisations called on Congress to take action against Trump’s latest move.
“Thank you other cities & states filing lawsuits! No better way to spend Presidents’ Day than rallying to stop this crazy President [with] his fake emergency to build a wall!” tweeted Congresswoman Maxine Waters before a rally in Los Angeles, California.
“Come for one, face us ALL!”
Immigrants, Muslim, Black and LGBTQ folks, and white allies standing united outside the White House and Trump’s #FakeNationalEmergency.
— Daniel Altschuler 🦋 (@altochulo) February 18, 2019
Trump declared the national emergency after Democrats refused to cave in to his demand of more than $5bn in funding for the wall. That demand led to the longest government shutdown of its kind late last year and into 2019.
The shutdown ended in late January when Trump, his fellow Republicans and Democrats agreed to temporarily fund the government while talks on border security continued.
Racing against the clock, Democratic and Republican negotiators came to an agreement last week to keep the government open. The deal did not include funds for Trump’s wall but did include about $1.37bn in funding for physical barriers.
Trump agreed to sign the legislation, but also announced he was declaring a national emergency over the border, drawing immediate challenges from Democrats and rights groups.
The president maintains that a wall is needed to stem irregular immigration and the flow of illicit drugs into the country. But statistics show that irregular immigration has been on the decline for decades and most illegal drugs enter the US through official ports of entry.
Activists and civil rights organisations were joined at rallies on Monday by those affected by Trump’s policies over the past two years since he took office, including those affected by the ban on travellers from several Muslim-majority countries, the crackdown on undocumented immigration and child separations at the border.
“I have a question, how many people are angry?” a speaker called out to hundreds of protesters at noon in Lafayette Park in the US capital. “How many people are sick and tired of being sick and tired?” the crowd was asked as they cheered in response.
Jo Hannah from Texas visited the border in 2017 and said she saw no emergency. Instead, she saw a plan that would devastate wildlife in the area and a plan that could tear down a wildlife centre in San Antonio.
“Around 10,000 monarch butterflies breed in this centre every year, and they are going to tear this centre for the wall,” she said to Al Jazeera from the Washington, DC rally.
— Deborah Rosenman (@drosenman) February 18, 2019
Since Trump’s announcement on Friday, several Democrats said they would challenge the declaration that would help Trump override Congress’ purse power.
Cheers erupted outside the White House as a member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) told a crowd that the civil rights group was preparing to sue Trump for declaring a national emergency.
So far, three Texas landowners and an environmental group have filed the first lawsuit challenging Trump, the nonprofit watchdog group Public Citizen said.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra told local media that he planned to file a suit as well. In an interview, he said the suit was “definitely and imminently” coming.
New Mexico, Oregon, Minnesota, New Jersey, Hawaii and Connecticut are among several states joining the lawsuit, local media reported, quoting the attorney general’s office.