Yemeni-owned bodegas across New York City’s five boroughs shut their doors at noon ET Thursday to protest President Trump’s executive order barring travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Under the order signed last Friday, travelers from not only Yemen but also Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Syria are barred from entering the U.S. for 90 days. The order also suspends admissions of new refugees for 120 days.
For Sulaiman Al-Audi, who works at the Best and Tasty Grocery on 143rd Street, the travel ban sends the message that he is not welcome here. Audi was born in Yemen but has been in the U.S. since 2002.
“We’ve been here over a decade, and we’ve never posed any threat to anybody. We’re just here to make a living,” he told Annmarie Fertoli of NPR member station WNYC.
Audi says he has started the application process to bring his wife and baby to the U.S. But he doesn’t know what happens next.
Debbie Almontaser, who organized Thursday’s bodega protests, says about 1,000 shops are participating. She says that restaurants and other stores have also closed in solidarity.
“The message that the merchants are sending is that they are part of the American fabric and the Muslim ban has devastated them and their families,” says Almontaser, who is of Yemeni descent. She too, is personally affected by the new travel restrictions.
“My brother-in-law’s wife is still stuck in Jordan,” she told me. “She was awaiting her visa and now because of the ban she won’t be able to join him and her children.”
At Best and Tasty Grocery, a sign greeted customers. It read: “In support of our family, friends and loved ones who are stranded at U.S. airports and overseas, we are closing our business today.”
Alina Babar, a hospital worker and regular customer, expressed sympathy for the strike. “I think it’s brave of them to take a stand,” she told WNYC, “and I think they have every right to do it, and I think that they feel like they’re being treated poorly.”
Many bodega workers and their supporters have gathered for a rally at in Brooklyn Borough Hall in solidarity with the Yemeni-American community.