New Yorkers depend on bodegas every day. That will be very clear Thursday when you're unable to grab that coffee or sandwich or beer or toilet paper you desperately need. Bodegas across New York City will be closing their doors from noon to 8 p.m. in protest of President Donald Trump's immigration ban.
Put together by Yemeni business owners, the organizers say over one thousand businesses across the city's five boroughs plan on dropping their gates for the protest. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said in a press release that there are as many as 6,000 Yemeni-American-owned businesses in the city.
On Facebook, organizers write that the protest will be "a public show of the vital role these grocers and their families play in New York’s economic and social fabric and, during this period, grocery store owners will spend time with their families and loved ones to support each other; many of these families have been directly affected by the Ban."
Yemen is one of seven Muslim-majority nations listed as a part of the ban and many Yemeni business owners and their families have already felt the impact of this ban. The executive order bars Syrian refugees from entering the United States indefinitely and suspends refugee admissions from others nations for 120 days. It also specifically blocks citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the U.S. for 90 days.
Widad Hassan, a graduate student studying international relations and an organizer of the protest, addressed concerns of bodegas losing money with Buzzfeed. “A lot of these stores have been in the neighborhood for twenty or thirty years,” Hassan said. “And [a] lot of people have been asking us, ‘Wouldn’t this hurt them because they’ll be losing money?’ The business owners have said the important thing is the statement being made. Many have been emotionally devastated. They can’t focus on work because they’re separated from their family members.”
Some New Yorkers who support the bodega protest have said on social media they plan on buying extra from the bodegas in the morning as an act of solidarity. Others have been donating directly to a Go Fund Me campaign to offset the losses for the protesting businesses.
Hassan also notes the business owners in part took inspiration from New York Taxi Workers Alliance work stoppage during the JFK airport protests in the immediate aftermath of the executive order.
But even in protest, your local bodega has your back. “Originally, we considered starting the shutdown at 8 a.m., but the grocers they made it clear they wouldn’t be willing to close if that meant their regulars wouldn’t get their morning coffee,” said Debbie Almontaser, board member of the Muslim Community Network and a rally organizer. “Even when their lives have been turned upside down, they refused to disrupt the lives of the very people they serve daily.”