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At Overland Park Vigil, Travel Ban Opponents Say It's Time To Take Action

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Andrea Tudhope
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KCUR 89.3
Syed Hussain listens intently to the speakers at an interfaith vigil for refugees and immigrants at Overland Park Christian Church.

Kansas City metro-area residents continue to voice opposition to the Trump Administration's executive orders on immigration. The latest was a candlelight vigil Sunday afternoon in Overland Park.

Sofia Khan started planning the vigil last weekend, after an order temporarily barring refugees and travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries was issued.

"I know our community was feeling after this executive order that they needed to be together," Khan said. She leads advocacy group KC for Refugees. "Knowing our community is more than just a few religions, we wanted to make sure it was secular and inclusive."

More than 1,000 people made it out to the interfaith vigil for refugees and immigrants held at Overland Park Christian Church. No single room was big enough for the crowd that showed up, so the speeches were streamed through the fellowship hall, sanctuary and outdoor courtyard. The speakers ranged from poets to rabbis, and the message was one of solidarity. 

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Credit Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3
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KCUR 89.3
The crowd gathered outside of the church and held candles as local activists gave advice on taking further actions.

"God says we are all one, and by God, I will refuse the president's baseless hatred," said Beth Torah Rabbi Mark Levin to the enthusiastic crowd.

At one point, Levin invited anyone not born in the United States to stand, then asked anyone whose parents were not born in America to stand, too. By the time he got to great-great grandparents, the whole room was standing and applauding. Still more applause came when he lauded the federal judge in Seattle who blocked Trump's immigration order Friday. (A federal appeals court has since rejected the Trump Administration's appeal, keeping the ban blocked for now.)

Kansas City poet Teresa Leggard took the podium at one point.

"While I have a right to remain silent, I have a responsibility not to," Leggard said.

The message really rang true for Syed Imtiaz Hussain, who was standing at the back of the sanctuary.

"This time everybody agrees -- too much is too much," Hussain said. "We were silent for so long."

Hussain has been in Kansas City for 16 years. His son, also named Syed, is a junior at Blue Valley West, where he says he's experienced and heard a lot of hate speech and "microaggressions."

"These events are going to help us realize the problems that are happening all around us," Syed said.

As the event came to a close, attendees lit candles and flooded outside to gather on the church's front lawn on busy 75th Street. Activists from Indivisible KC -- a grassroots activist group organizing to oppose President Trump -- told the crowd to put their senators' phone numbers on speed dial.

"It's time to stand indivisible with refugees and immigrants," they said.

Correction: KCUR originally reported around 700 people attended the event. A pastor at Overland Park Christian Church estimates the final crowd at 1,200.

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter and producer for KCUR 89.3. Reach her at andreat@kcur.org, and follow her on Twitter @adtudhope.

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