US & Canada

A Day Without Immigrants protest sees US businesses close

a sign saying the restaurant is closed Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Restaurants are closed in several major cities

US businesses and schools faced disruption on Thursday as workers and students stayed home to highlight the contribution of immigrants.

Schools, restaurants and grocery stores shut across the country, from Los Angeles to Chicago to New York.

Some schools saw student-led walkouts, despite appeals not to.

The Day Without Immigrants protest, spread by social media, urged foreign-born workers to refuse to participate in the US economy for a day.

About 50 restaurants in Washington were shut on Thursday, as well as in other cities including Boston and San Francisco.

At the Pentagon in Virginia, the heart of America's military where about 25,000 people work, at least seven restaurants announced they would be shut for the day.

In Massachusetts, Wellesley's College's art museum removed all artworks created or donated by immigrants.

Image copyright AP
Image caption A painting by Scottish-born artist James McDougal Hart was shrouded by Wellsley administrators
Image copyright AP

In New Mexico, the US state with the highest percentage of Hispanic residents, many businesses were shuttered from Albuquerque to Santa Fe.

Standing in the 9th Street Market in Philadelphia, Rani Vasudeva was struck by the usually bustling hub of commerce's quietness.

"It's actually very sad," said the 38-year-old university professor. "You realise the impact the immigrant community has. We need each other for our daily lives."

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionMarches took place across the US

Day of action around the US

  • Grocery stores, markets and restaurants in cities such as New Orleans, Philadelphia and Chicago were quiet during normal lunch hours
  • Rallies have taken place taken place in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Austin, Texas. Thousands of people have joined demonstrations in Chicago and Detroit
  • A Senate coffee shop closed down on Washington DC's Capitol Hill

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionBecoming citizens in the shadow of the Trump presidency

The Los Angeles United School District, the nation's second largest district, rang parents to warn them.

"I urge students and staff not to disrupt learning by participating in protests or walkouts during the instructional day," chief-of-staff Alma Pena-Sanchez said in a voicemail message sent to parents.

One school in the US capital decided to close down for the day, in order to allow teachers to protest.

The 426 primary students of the Latin American Montessori Bilingual Public Charter School were given the day off in solidarity with the boycott.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Earlier this month 6,700 immigrants were sworn in as citizens at the LA Convention Center.

Andy Shallal, who is closing several of his Washington-area restaurants, is from Iraq - one of the seven countries on Mr Trump's proposed travel ban executive order.

He told local media that "as an immigrant myself, I could not stand on the sidelines and watch the rest of my staff not be here. I wanted to make sure we are in solidarity with them".

One of the protest leaders, Spanish-American celebrity chef Jose Andres, had a public falling out with Donald Trump when he decided to pull out of a contract to open a restaurant in the president's new Washington hotel.

Mr Trump is currently suing him for $10m (£8m) for breach of contract; the chef is counter-suing for $8m (£6.4m).

A march was also planned for the White House.

Last month, nearly 500,000 protesters took to the streets of Washington to protest over the presidency of Donald Trump and to draw attention to issues affecting women.

How the boycott is being debated

Many social media users have taken to Twitter using the hashtag #DayWithoutImmigrants to weigh in on the debate.

In the last 24 hours the hashtag has been used almost 200,000 times.

@LyssaG21 tweeted: "Many of the immigrants in our country work low paying jobs that most Americans won't work for, remember that."

While others wanted to point out what they saw as the positives: "Finally a day when I will get an English speaking customer service rep" suggests @NAWparty.

But some were not happy.

This #DayWithoutImmigrants is a great idea. Hopefully they'll all pack up and go back home to save us the time and effort of deportations. @MarkDice

The social debate also wanted to make the distinction between illegal immigrants and economic migrants. @tumblrisntfacts tweeted: "A #DayWithoutImmigrants would be horrible. A day without ILLEGAL immigrants would be following the law."

But others argued that it was about standing up for communities who feel victimised "It's not about if you're LEGAL or ILLEGAL it's about finally speaking up." suggests @aesthetixsammy.

While @oxminaox posted: "To those of you protesting today, thank you. Many have fears and need people like you to raise your voices. Stay safe."