Wrapping around the arrival gate, a few hundred people grip signs, hold balloons, wave flags, chant, sing songs, and welcome everybody who passes through the gate as one of them.
"An Afghan war veteran will come home for the first time, make him feel welcome," one man shouts as the crowd cheers. "His name is Nasir."
Louder cheers. Not far away, someone with a melodica locates the right key and melody—or best approximation—for 'We Shall Overcome' and the crowd sings across the gates, a wobbly, about-to-cry rendition from a few dozen right on the front lines offering comfort and assistance.
From the look and sound of things here, you wouldn't know that everybody is gathered for a full-blown constitutional crisis—a response to President Donald Trump's rash, random, and unconstitutional indefinite ban that restricts people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. (protesters make no bones about it and refer to it as "the Muslim ban").
A national stay was granted less than 24 hours after the ban was initiated, but some airports, including Dulles, are ignoring the emergency order. At Dulles, some Maryland and Virginia representatives weren't allowed to see detainees. Later on, lawyers were told there were no detainees.
“Did you get your coffee?” a seemingly 10-foot tall white Airport Authority Police Officer grunts to anybody nearby who is hovering with signs of support or waiting for a relative by the airport Starbucks. “If so move out of the way. You can't stand here.”
This whole thing here, this "Muslim Ban," is one horrifying example of the gears of bureaucracy grinding people down, but this officer is an embodiment of it, here to keep it orderly—and intimidating.
"Let them see their lawyers" the crowd chants, threading other chants, including "U-S-A, U-S-A," through the protest din. What would Trump and Steve Bannon and all of these other world-fuckers do with all this patriotism? All this sincerity and kindheartedness? Would it compute?
Not far away from the welcome party, a few dozen lawyers—sitting on the floor, slumping in chairs, or leaning up against pillars—offer counsel to confused and terrified people. Behind them, a sign atop a huge stack of bottled water and some pizzas reads: "Food For All! Don't ask just eat!"
Meanwhile, somewhere inside of Dulles, many people are, presumably, detained. The exact number of detainees is unclear, though a number bandied about on Sunday evening was 30—and if it is anything like what is reported at other places, it includes being handcuffed, social media scoured, and more. As ABC News reported, one family was detained for 20 hours at Dulles without food because of the ban.
The final international arrival of the night walks through and the crowd cheers—cheers that grow louder after two women hold onto one another tight, tears in their eyes, for what feels like minutes.
Melodica man is still going.
"Free Bird," somebody jokingly requests.
"No," Melodica Man deadpans.
He puts the instrument to his mouth and slowly constructs a version of Journey's 'Don't Stop Believing,' and the crowd laughs in recognition and then claps—this piece of pop camp means a whole lot right now.
As he gets into it, his sign tilts into view. It reads, "Jesus was a refugee."