Bodegas are an intricate part of New York City’s culture with a multitude of them lining the street corners from Manhattan to Brooklyn. On February 2nd, most of these ethnically Yemenis business owners shut down in protest of President Donald Trump‘s executive order on immigration, which bars entrance to the U.S from seven predominantly Muslim countries–one of which is Yemen–for three months, in addition to other suspensions. A California appeals court denied a motion on Sunday to reinstate the ban following Federal Judge James Ropart’s decision to issue a temporary restraining order against the most controversial parts of the executive order.
Smoke Shop & Groceries at 1295B Pacific Avenue, near Nostrand Avenue in Crown Heights
More than a hundred Yemenis business owners closed their shops from noon to 8 p.m on Thursday and thousands congregated at Brooklyn Borough Hall to protest a ban that affects many of their friends, if not themselves. The closure of the bodegas, de facto community centers in some ways, was felt by many New Yorkers who visit these delis on a daily basis.
We visited a couple of these bodegas the next day to see what their input on the situation was, and what they hoped for.
Prospect Deli at 669 Nostrand Avenue
38-year-old Faeez of Prospect Deli considers losing a day worth of income a necessary and imperative sacrifice to make a statement. “We were protesting for all our brothers and sisters who are being block in all the airports,” he says. “A lot of these people had papers too. It’s not right what [Trump] is doing.”
The closing of the delis adversely affected countless New Yorkers who go to their local deli for many of their everyday goods. Faeez says, “Many people were complaining why we were closing yesterday; they couldn’t get what they needed. But we had to–for those people blocked in all the airports.”
Faeez, who has lived in Brooklyn with his family since immigrating from Yemen when he was 12 hopes that things get better, but he is grateful that they are treated well in their neighborhood in Crown Heights. When asked if he has seen anything different since the election, Faeez says, “Over here we good. You got some places where there’s a lot of prejudice, a lot of racism. But over here we good.”
Nostrand Deli at 777 Nostrand Avenue
This is a sentiment shared by Ali from Nostrand Deli. “The people are the same people. I know all the people [who come to the store],” he said. However, Ali is not optimistic about the political situation and the country’s perspective on Muslims, though he hopes the rally and closing of the store helped a little.
“In my country [Yemen] everyone is like family; we all know each other,” he says. Therefore, while there is no formal union or organization among the Yemeni-American small business owners, the bodega store owners were able to unite and close their stores on the same day to protest the travel ban.
“I hope things get better. But I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see,” Ali admits with a grim smile, as we say goodbye.
Next, check out 10 Trump buildings in NYC and the inaccessible privately owned public spaces inside Trump Tower.