Muslim woman's silent Trump protest was far from spontaneous

  • © Mark Kauzlarich / Reuters

By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Members of an informal group of civil rights activists who were thrown out of a Donald Trump campaign rally on Friday after a silent protest have a message for the Republican presidential candidate: you can expect more of the same.

"Let’s just say if Mr. Trump comes back to our neighborhood, we might pay him a visit," said Marty Rosenbluth, an immigration lawyer who stood wordlessly next to Rose Hamid, the Muslim hijab-wearing flight attendant who quickly became a media sensation after her removal from the event in South Carolina.

Trump in December called for a temporary ban on Muslims from entering the United States following coordinated attacks in Paris in which Islamic State gunmen and suicide bombers killed about 130 people.

His comments were widely condemned by U.S. politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, with many saying such a ban would be impractical and likely unconstitutional.

Trump events have frequently seen protesters attempt to disrupt the proceedings by chanting and holding signs. But Friday's group of protesters in Rock Hill employed a different tactic.

South Carolina is considered an important voting state with its third-in-the-nation primary election scheduled for Feb. 20 in the race for the party nomination to run for the White House in November.

Rosenbluth had demonstrated at a Dec. 4 Trump rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, where the group was quickly thrown out after shouting.

"So I was thinking, what would happen if we just stood there silently?" he said.

At a mid-December Trump appearance in Aiken, South Carolina, a few activists tried the quiet approach, standing while wearing yellow stars with messages such as "Stop Islamophobia" that were intended to evoke the stars Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany.

It took security guards several minutes to decide how to handle the situation, in part because they were not disrupting the rally, Rosenbluth said.

The protest proved so successful that the activists decided to try again last Friday.

While cameras focused on Hamid and Rosenbluth, six others stood a few rows behind them wearing yellow stars and were also removed.

Hamid, 56, said by telephone on Monday that she was not involved in the planning but decided to go to the rally on her day off work after receiving an email from another protester, Edith Garwood.

"She told me she planned to do a silent protest," said Hamid, the president of a group called Muslim Women of the Carolinas. "I told her that's what I wanted to do."

That said, Hamid acknowledged the protest, like any political messaging operation, was aimed at attracting as much attention as possible.

"I chose that spot strategically," said Hamid, who stood up directly behind Trump when the billionaire businessman and reality TV show star suggested that refugees fleeing violence in Syria might be affiliated with Islamic State militants.

Not every member of the group adhered to the silent strategy. Jibril Hough, an activist from Charlotte who is friends with Hamid, decided to chant "Islam is not the problem" and said he was physically removed.

The Trump campaign has not commented on the protesters. A campaign rally in New Hampshire on Monday produced only one disruption, when two men were escorted out after yelling.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; editing by Grant McCool)

SAP is the sponsor of this coverage which is independently produced by the staff of Reuters News Agency.

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