The week of protest

_C1_9503.JPGHave you kept up this week?

Millions of marchers took to the streets in all 50 states and around the world the weekend of President Donald Trump’s inauguration to protest sexism and sexual assault and shout a full-throated message of inclusion and diversity. A week later, thousands more have protested against the president’s plan to build a wall on our southern border and his Friday executive order that sharply curtails the acceptance of refugees and other immigrants, particularly from horror-filled Syria and other Middle Eastern countries. Meanwhile, more people are fleeing war and persecution than at any time in recorded history.

The Trump administration said the order would help protect against terrorists who could be among refugees’ ranks, though this hasn’t happened under the current refugee application system, according to the libertarian Cato Institute. The order certainly made a splash, slamming the door on students, families, allies of U.S. armed forces and others on their way to the U.S., earning bipartisan criticism and sparking worries over whether the executive branch would obey court orders against it.

_C1_9430.JPGOne of the protesters was this woman above, Simone, whose mother escaped the Cambodian killing fields, where more than 1 million people lost their lives at the hands of a dictatorship a few decades ago. She and a couple hundred others turned out in downtown Fayetteville with signs quoting the Statue of Liberty’s plaque and Biblical passages. They urged the White House to keep the door open for refugees and other immigrants no matter their religion or homeland.

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_C1_9488.JPGI’ll add one more thought: Support a newspaper, even if it isn’t the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. I’ve written about the effects of refugee, health care, climate change and immigration policy and will do everything I can to keep doing so — and I’m just one reporter at one paper. This is shaping up to be a defining year of my lifetime and in the country’s history, and even if it’s a lot to keep up with for all of us, we absolutely must keep trying to learn about what’s going on and what it means.

Thanks for looking, and keep your eyes open.

Dan

A Call for Compassion

_C1_8252The national rancor over the tens of thousands of Central American children coming to the border has reached Fayetteville.

About 40 people rallied yesterday near downtown to gather donations for a charity near the border and to tell U.S. officials to take care of those kids. From my story:

Gang-related violence reigns in these children’s home countries, according to multiple reports from the area. El Salvador’s murder rate is the second-highest in the world, for example, according to the U.S. Department of State. Children, including infants, have been killed by at least the hundreds, sometimes reportedly by other children.

“These children only have two options now: either flee or die,” said Fernando Garcia, president of Fayetteville’s OMNI Center, which focuses on a range of social justice issues and organized Monday’s rally.

Of course, other people vehemently disagree on how much we should be helping these kids. Many politicians say the border should be tighter, while others have said the children are dangerous and potentially diseased.

It’s a fascinating and revealing discussion, and one I’ve been wanting to cover somehow — this rally gave me the chance. We had a staff photographer there, but I snapped a handful of my own images, too.

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_C1_8246(That’s Fayetteville’s mayor, Lioneld Jordan.)

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_C1_8236Other news media were also on the scene.

Thanks for looking. I recommend keeping an eye on the politics surrounding this issue. Several charities are also working to help these children and some of their families as they wait for court hearings.

Dan

Old Emma Avenue

_C1_0706The Apollo Theater opened its single screen in 1949. Past the box office with 45-cent tickets stood a statue of the Greek namesake under a chandelier and a $20,000 organ. The first movie shown was “It’s a Great Feeling,” starring Doris Day and including a Ronald Reagan cameo.

Today the doors are boarded. A sign taped to the box office window declares the building unsafe. It’s been empty for about a year, and bail bonds and printed signs are for sale on either side.

The Apollo is the grandest building on East Emma Avenue, which runs through Springdale’s old downtown. I see the Apollo as symbolic of the street as well, because half of the other buildings are also empty. Antique shops, hardware stores, second-hand clothing outlets and a Dollar General fill the rest.

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It seems like every town has a main street that’s just a shell of its former self, often near a railroad. Up in Lincoln, Neb., it’s O Street east of downtown.  In Springfield, Mo., it’s Commercial Street. And for Springdale, it’s Emma.

I know it’s cliche to take pictures of this kind of thing — urban decay, how original — but it’s interesting to me for two reasons: First, that these streets are so common, and second, that even here some people always work to fill the vacuum.

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On Emma Avenue, a lot of those people are first- or second-generation Latino immigrants — people who, in my experience, often do what they can both to settle in and to find meaningful work. As Latino people make up a larger proportion of people around here, they have plenty of people to sell to and buy from.

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_C1_0757Even the fading streets have life.

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_C1_0787Thanks for looking.

Dan