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Not In Our Town Rally Stresses Unity

Many Twin Cities residents and politicians are voicing their concern over President Donald Trump's immigration order. 

More than 1,100 people filled the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts Wednesday night for a community solidarity rally sponsored by Not In Our Town.

Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner said the new administration is not part of the spirit of America and isn't for a more perfect union.

Renner said residents should look to the words of Martin Luther King Jr. and let the truth march on.

"That's the spirit that we need to continue to remember in spite of the fact that we may have people today in national office, or perhaps even local office, that want to divide us and take away basic human rights," said Renner. "We have fought for these. People have died for these. We are not going backwards."

Town of Normal Mayor Chris Koos said he welcomes anyone looking for a better life for their family who is from a country Trump has banned. 

Both mayors also joined hands with Bloomington's Imam Abu-Emad Al-Talla in a symbol of unity.

The audience heard Sephrine Achesah talk about her experience as an immigrant from Kenya. Achesah is a teaching assistant in Women and Gender Studies at Illinois State University.

Achesah said the rally proved there's community support. 

"I'm so excited that the community came together and that people of all races, all religious backgrounds saw we can be united as a community and put away any differences we have. 

Achesah said there are plans for a rally on ISU's campus next week. She hopes it sends a strong message to students impacted by the executive order.

Mike Matejka of Not In Our Town said it's important to make sure everyone feels welcome in the community.

"If we can recognize each other as community, as people, and not be afraid of each other or be driven by fear, community can come together and become a really positive force," said Matejka.

Matejka also said citizens might have diverse beliefs, but it is important that they stay involved in the conversation. 

Editors note: this post was updated with additional photos. 

Mike joined GLT's staff as a student reporter in February of 2016 having worked previously as a reporter at Illinois State University's student radio station, 103.3 WZND. He acted as a director for the WZND newsroom for two years. Mike was also seen as a reporter, producer, and anchor at TV-10 News. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism in May of 2017 before starting his post-graduate career with the Public Affairs Reporting Masters Program at University of Illinois Springfield.
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