City-Wide Bodega Strike Hits Cortelyou Road As Yemeni-Americans Protest Trump’s ‘Muslim Ban’

City-Wide Bodega Strike Hits Cortelyou Road As Yemeni-Americans Protest Trump’s ‘Muslim Ban’
(Photo by Carly Miller/BKLYNER)

One thousand Yemeni-owned bodegas across the city are on strike today to protest Trump’s executive order banning immigrants and refugees from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States.

And a few of the shops are on your morning commute in Ditmas Park.

Participating grocery stores (which often carry a reputation for never closing) are slated to close from 12pm to 8pm today, culminating in an evening rally at Brooklyn Borough Hall, said organizers. The goal is to show the impact of Yemeni-owned stores in the city’s economy and the devastating impact of the executive order on their lives and families.

This strike comes on the heels of another strike led by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which refused to service JFK airport for one hour on Saturday following the executive order.

Saleh Kassim, owner of Cortelyou Smoke Shop & Deli, is participating in the strike to support families and refugees, he told BKLYNER this morning as he served his morning customers.

“We respect every religion and human being. We believe in peace, and we love this country,” said Kassim. “My wife and my cousins have green cards, but now they’re scared. They don’t want to be sent back to Yemen.”

Saleh Kassim at Cortelyou Smoke Shop & Deli. (Photo by Carly Miller/BKLYNER)

Kassim’s father brought him to the U.S. as a teenager, and though he’s been back home to visit, he now has three kids in Brooklyn who call the U.S. home. “The best thing about this country is freedom and opportunity,” he said.

Between 4,000 and 6,000 bodegas and grocery stores across the city are owned by Yemeni immigrants, according to Muslim Community Network board member Debbie Almontaser. And since the executive order issued last week, many people have told stories about family members getting stranded amidst the sudden immigration policy change.

“People have fought so hard to get those rights. They can’t just be erased with the stroke of a pen,” said Mow Salahi of Salahi Deli on Cortelyou Road. “It’s not right. This isn’t Hitler.”

Salahi will be bringing his sons and nephews to the rally at Borough Hall tonight to support refugees and immigrants.

The Yemeni-American bodega owners who organized the strike chose the hours — 12pm to 8pm — to ensure that their regulars got their morning coffee, relayed Almontaser on the facebook page. “Even when their lives have been turned upside down, they refused to disrupt the lives of the people they serve daily.”

Abdul at A & T grocery on the corner of Cortelyou Road and Coney Island Avenue was waiting for a confirmation call to close the shop. But either way, he’ll be at the rally tonight “to support my people,” he said. “Americans are speaking their hearts for us. But we need to stand up and speak, too.”

(Photo via Um Mohamed‎/facebook)

How to support the Yemeni community

Attend the rally: Thursday, February 2 at 5:15pm in the back of 209 Joralemon Street, at Brooklyn Borough Hall. The evening will begin with a sunset call to prayer followed by merchants sharing stories about how the ban has impacted their lives. Update 1:30pm:  Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams will attend

Donate to the GoFundMe campaign: Neighbors have banded together to create a fundraiser for the Yemeni community. “Donating what we would otherwise spend at our local bodega on a regular Thursday to give back to this community is the least we can do to show solidarity at this difficult time,” said the campaign’s creator.