HOUSTON – “Sign me up for the Resistance,” South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg told an auditorium full of Democratic Party insiders and activists on Saturday afternoon. Several hours later, he and three other candidates running for leadership positions in the Democratic National Committee were in the middle of a protest at George Bush Intercontinental Airport to protest the Trump administration’s executive order on immigration and refugee resettlement.
They joined a crowd of approximately one hundred people that had gathered outside Terminal E, the international arrivals terminal, joining similar protests that broke out at airports across the country. As was the case at other protests, according to Politico’s Gabriel Debenedetti, a group of local lawyers was present. They had gathered there to offer potential legal assistance to travelers who might be affected by the executive order. Though the crowd at Houston wasn’t as big as other airports, the city itself is the fourth biggest destination in the world for refugee resettlement, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Also on the scene were former Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison, as well as Democratic National Committee Vice Chair Maria Elena Durazo. Buttigieg, Perez and Harrison are candidates running to be the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Durazo is running for reelection to her current post. All four were in Houston on Saturday for a regional forum sponsored by the DNC for candidates running for leadership positions ahead of the party’s election scheduled to take place at the end of February.
“I think it’s great that we have the organization and infrastructure, the activity and activism, and the heart and soul to stand up to what Donald Trump is doing,” Durazo said in an interview. “We have never seen this many protests, this many demonstrations in the numbers, in the consecutive days of activity, from Saturday the Women’s March, to Philadelphia, to tonight. It’s unfortunate that the reasons are Donald Trump is signing these executive orders and because he’s so hell-bent on violating our constitutional rights.”
Tom Perez took advantage of his fluency in Spanish and addressed protestors and local media in both languages. “Somos los Estados Unidos, no somos los Estados Divididos.” We are the United States, not the Divided States. It is worth noting one dynamic from the election which probably played a part in Saturday’s protests: the urban-rural split between liberals and conservatives. Because liberals tend to concentrate in large cities, many of which have international airports, that is probably one reason why these protests were able to organize and mobilize so quickly, even in a historically conservative state like Texas.
“We knew this would be a day of reckoning when Donald Trump assumed the Oval Office,” he told protestors. “We didn’t know it would come this fast. Lady Liberty has taken a few body punches, but the American people will fight back.”
Harrison cited the famous quote by Pastor Martin Niemöller, as well as a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham City Jail: “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the actions and words of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
“We are that shining beacon on a hill,” Harrison said during an interview. “We will get back to that point once [Donald Trump] is no longer president.”
“Resistance is not futile, resistance is necessary. We cannot allow this man to destroy this great nation, to destroy the reputation that it’s had for generations.”
Buttigieg, who at one point acted as an Arabic-English interpreter for a newly arrived family and the crowd gathered outside the terminal, said during an interview, “Every time there’s another outrage, there’s going to have to be another response.”
“We have to make sure it’s not just reactive to what they do. We got to make sure that we’re building a proactive agenda around freedom, around fairness, around protecting families, and around our future.”