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St. Louisans rally against Blunt's support of Trump's immigration order

Protesters gathered outside Republican U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt’s office in Clayton Wednesday to voice their opposition to President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Anne Danis, of the group Indivisible St. Louis, helped organize the protest to urge Blunt to push back against the president’s order. As part of the protest, Danis took a handful of people to Blunt’s office so they could tell staffers how their lives have been affected by the executive order. 

Although Blunt said in a statement that the president's order is not a travel ban on Muslims, people outside his office saw it otherwise. They decried the policy, which they said was harmful to immigrants and refugees from the Middle East.

“We’re here out of love. We’re here out of love for our country, we’re here out of love for our neighbors,” Danis said. “What Blunt is doing is not correct, and what we are standing up for is what’s right.”

Indivisible St. Louis organized a similar protest last week after Danis heard talk show host Rachel Maddow’s segment on political organizing. Danis said about 100 people attended that event to speak out against Trump’s cabinet appointments. Several other groups and organizers helped spread the word about the protest of through social media.

Today, protesters initially packed the sidewalks at the intersection of Hanley Road and Bonhomme Avenue. outside Blunt’s office. After an hour of chanting, they moved into the street, blocking part of Bonhomme.  The crowd of more than 300 expressed a variety of concerns.

Medical researcher Soumya Chatterjee told Blunt’s staff that his work studying tuberculosis in refugee populations in St. Louis was interrupted by the executive order. 

“It’s not that they’re a just drain on our resources or they’re not terrorists, they’re actually helping us understand a disease better,” he said.

Chatterjee said he and others are committed to making their voices heard.

“We will keep doing this, it’s going to be relentless, because this is the time to do it. Otherwise it’s going to spiral out of control,” Chatterjee said.

As the protest drew to a close, Blunt’s office responded with his statement.

“The right to protest peacefully is a fundamental part of who we are as a nation, and I always appreciate Missourians sharing their views. I believe our top priority should be to keep Americans safe,” Blunt said.

“That’s why I support increased vetting on people applying to travel from countries with extensive terrorist ties or activity,” the senator wrote. “We have to have the tools and policies in place to know, with absolute certainty, who these individuals are, where they are coming from, and whether they pose a threat to our communities. There is no travel ban on Muslims, and I would not support such a policy.”

More protests are scheduled in the coming month, including one Saturday at the Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis. Danis said she hopes to meet with others outside Blunt’s office each week going forward.

Follow Willis on Twitter: @WillisRArnold