On January 19 six Canadian and two French activists travelling from Montreal, Quebec to Washington, DC to attend the Women’s March on Washington were stopped, questioned, and ultimately refused entry at a land border crossing near Champlain, New York.
“We said we were going to the Women’s March on Saturday and they said, ‘Well, you’re going to have to pull over’,” Sasha Dyck, told the Guardian.
For the next two hours, US border agents searched their cars, examined their cell phones, and fingerprinted each of the eight-person contingent.
Dyck, a Canadian citizen and resident of Montreal, said that border guards then told the two French nationals that they were being denied entry into the US. No reason was given.
Despite the fact that neither French nor Canadian citizens require a visa to travel to the US, the border guards told the French nationals they would require a visa for any future visit.
“Then for the rest of us [Canadians], they said, ‘You’re headed home today’,” Dyck said, adding that they were told that they would be arrested if they tried to cross the border again any time over the weekend.
At the same crossing British national Jason Kroese reported that he was fingerprinted, photographed, and ultimately refused entry because, a border agent explained, he and his companions were planning on attending a “potentially violent rally.”
Kroese said his group was also told they should not attempt to travel to the US for “a few months” and he was personally told he would need a visa for future visits, despite the fact that British citizens do not require Visas to visit the US.
Another protester, Joseph Decunha of Montreal, told CBC that he was also refused entry at the border after being asked for his political views.
“The first thing [the agent] asked us point blank is, ‘Are you anti- or pro- Trump?’” said Decunha.
“They told me I was being denied entry for administrative reasons. According to the agent, my travelling to the United States for the purpose of protesting didn’t constitute a valid reason to cross,” Decunha said. “It felt like, if we had been pro-Trump, we would have absolutely been allowed entry.”
Half a million people to the streets of Washington, DC, for the Women’s March on Washington, including many thousands who did manage to cross the US-Canada border over the past few days.
While political interrogation, fingerprinting, searches, and ultimately refusal of entry at the US border are nothing new for Indigenous, Muslim or South-Asian travellers, the specific refusal related to a peaceful protest brings to mind some of the most recent attempts by Republican lawmakers in five states to criminalise a variety of forms of peaceful protest.
[Reprinted from TeleSUR English.]