Latino Bodega Employees Support Yemeni-Led Trump Protest

Raúl Arriaga, a Hispanic employee at the Golden Deli bodega, and owner Adman Alshabbi joined the protest. New York bodegas closed to protest the anti-Muslim measures of Trump’s government. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

At exactly 12:00 noon on Thursday, Mexico native Raúl Arriaga and other employees – three Latinos and four who are Muslim – helped pull down the gate of the Golden Deli bodega on 138th Street in Harlem.

The store closed its doors for the first time in 25 years as part of a protest against President Donald Trump’s measures banning entry to people from seven countries with Muslim majorities. Over 1,000 bodegas owned by small entrepreneurs from Yemen joined the series of protests occurring throughout the Big Apple, and stopped offering their services for eight hours.

The closing affected Arriaga, who hails from Guerrero. Although he did not earn the $80 he makes every day at work – which allows him to support his wife and son in Mexico – he was happy to support it, saying that everyone needs to demonstrate against Trump’s abuses.

“They are good people who have helped Mexicans a lot by giving us work and, honestly, we are similar in many ways: They also came here looking for a better future. Attacking them and forbidding them from entering is unfair,” said Arriaga, who has prepared sandwiches at the bodega for the last seven years.

“This is everyone’s problem because Trump is very radical in what he does, and the effect will not only be felt by undocumented people but it will later be used against the entrance of Latinos, even if they are citizens or residents, so we need to stand together,” said the Mexican worker.

New York bodegas closed to protest the anti-Muslim measures issued by Trump’s government. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

Adman Alshabbi, the owner of Golden Deli bodega, who planned to join more than 3,000 demonstrators at a rally in Brooklyn that night, explained that the decision to close was a way to demand respect.

“Today we are losing between $2,000 and $3,000 in sales, but we must do this to defend ourselves and defend our people and our families,” said the small business owner. “Money does not matter because, if no one does this, we will be losing much more by losing our rights. This is a matter of freedom. This is a country of liberties and, if we lose them, it would be the worst because we would be losing everything, and that would be very costly.”

The Yemen native, who has been a U.S. citizen for 25 years, criticized the stigma that fuels the Trump administration’s singling out of Muslims, and added that he hopes the protest he is joining serves to make Washington listen and reverse the executive order of banning Muslims from Yemen, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan and Syria from entering the country.

Kathy Hernández, an employee at GK Food deli, located on Broadway and West 138th Street in Harlem. Latino bodegas did not close but supported the protest. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

“Saying that someone is bad because they are Muslim is unfair. There are bad people in every religion, and we love this country. We have children here, my parents and my grandfather came in the ’60s. This is my country and my land, and it pains me to see that it now feels like something is missing, that we are not in the same United States we used to be,” said Alshabbi.

Latino support

Ramón Murphy, president of the Bodega Association of the United States (ASOBEU), confirmed that hundreds of businesses closed their doors and that, even though Latino businesses operated normally, they support the entrepreneurs from Yemen and other Muslim countries.

“We understand that they are our brothers and sisters, and they have our total support. I believe that is it important to sit down with every community because, here, bodega owners are bodega owners, no matter where they come from,” said the Dominican-born leader, who also pointed out the great impact the closing has on the Big Apple, even when most of the 14,000 bodegas in the city remained open.

“As bodega owners, we want to provide a service to people, but we understand their decision to close to raise their voices, and we believe that anyone who complies with the law, regardless of where they are from, should be allowed to come into this country,” he added, and acknowledged the contribution of the Muslim community to the development of bodegas in the Big Apple.

“They are hardworking people. Yemenis have made many businesses thrive, and we reiterate that, for us, a bodega owner is a bodega owner, and they will always have our support,” he said.

Katy Hernández, an employee at the Hispanic-owned GK Food bodega in Harlem, which did not close, said that the protest led by Yememi entrepreneurs is well-justified, but added that she is not afraid that Trump’s government may take action against Hispanic tourists, students or residents.

GK Food deli worker Francisco González, selling ceviche on Broadway and West 138th Street in Harlem. Latino bodegas did not close but supported the protest. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

“I don’t think the president will do the same with Latinos, although what he is doing to Muslims is ugly,” she said.

Mexican-born Francisco González, who prepares ceviche at the same establishment, said that he is ready to join any protests, and called on the different sectors in the city to create a common front against Trump.

“We Latinos must support Muslims, and Muslims need to support Latinos, and everyone must support everyone in this, because they will end up coming after all of us without distinction,” said the worker, who said that he is very scared to think that the new government’s next step might be to fill big cities with immigration agents.

“I hope that these protests will change things in some way and that someone listens and changes what is happening here. If no one says anything and people go on working as usual, this will become unlivable, he said.

The protest carried out by bodega owners ended in a massive rally at Borough Hall in Brooklyn, where hundreds of employees, business owners and sympathizers carrying Yemen flags and signs made it clear that they will continue to raise their voice against any injustice.

Brooklyn Borough Hall on Feb. 2 (Photo by Luis Cañarte via El Diario)

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