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"DFW Airport CEO thanks police and protesters for 'peaceful'demonstrations"
Friday, February 3, 2017
DFW Airport CEO thanks police and protesters for 'peaceful' demonstrations
By Conor Shine, Aviation Writer
The Dallas (TX) Morning News
As thousands of people crowded airports around the country last weekend to
protest President Donald Trump's temporary ban on travelers from seven
majority-Muslim countries, tensions simmered and sometimes escalated into
clashes between protesters and police.
But that wasn't the case at DFW International Airport, where protests were
peaceful despite thousands of people crowding the international arrivals area
at Terminal D on Saturday and Sunday.
"The interaction between the airport staff, especially our Department of Public
Safety, and the protesters was at all times peaceful. It was respectful," DFW
Airport CEO Sean Donohue said Thursday during an airport board meeting. "My
thanks to everyone involved."
DFW Airport reported no incidents or arrests stemming from the weekend's
protests. Donohue contrasted the situation with airports around the country
such as Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where police used pepper spray to
disperse a crowd of protesters.
"It was a situation that could have become emotional and maybe could have been
a little bit on edge, but because of the way people handled it from all
aspects, that did not happen," Donohue said of the protests at DFW. "In other
airports around the country, that was not the case."
DFW Airport police also drew praise from those working to get the detainees
released over the weekend. As protests wound down Sunday, Alia Salem, executive
director of the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the Council on American-Islamic
Relations, credited the officers for "keeping the peace but not quelling the
In addition to the police and protesters, Donohue thanked Customs and Border
Protection agents at the airport for doing their job "very professionally" in a
challenging situation. He also thanked faith leaders who came out for their
role "ensuring people felt comfortable and not intimidated or threatened."
Donohue shed more light on the airport staff's role in managing the protests.
The biggest response was from the airport's police force, although staff also
helped coordinate food, cots and blankets for detainees held overnight.
He made clear that the decisions about whom to detain and for how long were all
made by Customs and Border Protection agents.
"The board, the airport executive team and all of us, we have no authority. We
do not have the authority to provide direction. We do not have the right to
demand information from customs and border patrol," Donohue said. "The analogy
I would use is think of it kind of as an embassy. It resides in the airport but
it is a federal facility."
No official figures on the number of travelers detained or delayed under the
restrictions have been released. Nine detainees were released Sunday and
greeted by Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. Lawyers working with affected travelers
said at least 30 people had been detained or delayed as of Wednesday, although
that figure has not been verified by official sources.
Rawlings on Thursday echoed Donohue's comments about the peaceful nature of the
protest and said the detainees told him they were treated well by airport staff.
"They were not happy that they had to spend the night at the airport, but the
accommodations that we tried to put [in place] and support them - the food and
the cots - they really appreciated," Rawlings said Thursday. "They really said
everybody was very polite to them."
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