Earnest chants filled Massachusetts Street on Thursday as dozens of people marched in support of Syed Ahmed Jamal, a Bangladeshi-born Lawrence scientist who was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on a deportation order after 30 years of residency in the U.S.
Shouts of “Free Syed Jamal” and “Say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcome here” rang out as marchers carried signs through downtown Lawrence to raise awareness for a local family that associate pastor Eleanor McCormick of Plymouth Congregational Church said has been “shaken to its core.”
“Have this affect how you walk and how you talk and how you vote”, McCormick said. “It is that important that immigrants in our land know us for our love, and not for our hate and not for fear.”
Free Syed Ahmed Jamal March
Demonstrators marched in support of releasing Lawrence resident Syed Jamal back to his family after he was detained by ICE on Jan. 24. Jamal, a Bangladeshi-born Lawrence resident, research scientist and academic, was issued a temporary stay of deportation on Wednesday.
The march began several hours after Jamal was granted a temporary stay of removal. His case is now under review, and a final decision on whether he will be deported is expected within 10 days. Jamal is currently being held in El Paso, Texas.
Some signs at the march tied into the national political discourse surrounding immigration — “Make America Think Again” and “Love Trumps Hate” — while others focused more on Jamal himself. One such sign read: “Friend. Father. Volunteer. Scientist. Community Leader.” Others simply implored: “Bring Syed home.”
Ceri Goulter, an event organizer, said she got involved in advocating for Jamal almost immediately after he was detained in late January. She said she's glad to see the effort growing.
“I’m a Lawrence girl; I grew up here and I’ve always known that Lawrence was special,” she said. “But this has been an outpouring like I’ve never seen before. It’s been overwhelming to see everybody come together for a family they’ve never met.”
Before the march began, Jamal’s brother, Syed Hussein Jamal, spoke to attendees, saying he and his family were grateful for the community’s support.
“The heartfelt gratitude that we feel for your guys’ support is unbelievable — to see the outpouring of support that we’re seeing,” he said. “I want to thank every one of you … We still have some work to do, so please stay focused and help us out where you can.”
Mahboob Ahmed, an assistant director of the Islamic Center of Lawrence, concluded the march by joining McCormick in an interfaith prayer. He told the Journal-World that his kids go to school with Jamal’s, and he has tried to help with the case since the beginning.
“We need to keep working, and we need to not rest until we bring Syed Jamal back home,” he said. “This whole community shows what a wonderful place it is and what a wonderful people we are. Together we are strong, and together we can make it happen. Let’s keep doing it and join hands until we bring him back."
Nearly 60,000 people have signed a Change.org petition urging authorities to return Jamal to Kansas. Organizers of the march encouraged attendees to continue calling congressional representatives and the Department of Homeland Security and include Jamal’s case number — 0925209456.
A follow-up rally is scheduled from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Kansas City, Mo., according to the “Free Syed Ahmed Jamal” Facebook page.