LOS ANGELES — Last weekend, the Screen Actors Guild held its annual awards ceremony celebrating and recognizing the best performances of 2016, but it was President Trump’s travel ban that took center stage this year.
Right from the start of the evening, SAG Awards host Ashton Kutcher wasted no time in making his views on President Trump’s “Muslim ban” clear. The actor took to the stage and began the ceremony by welcoming his peers, viewers at home and “everyone in airports that belong in my America.”
At the time of the SAG Awards, protests had erupted around the United States at various airports such as LAX in Los Angeles and JFK in New York challenging the president’s ban on travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries. The ban affected hundreds of travelers coming into the United States, including some international filmmakers who were themselves on the way to the SAG Awards.
Asghar Fahardi, the Iranian filmmaker who wrote and directed Oscar-nominated foreign language film “The Salesman,” learned that he would not be able to enter the United States under President Trump’s travel ban, meaning he would be unable to even attend the Academy Award ceremony. The film’s lead actress Taraneh Alidoosti tweeted that she would not be attending the awards in protest of the president’s executive order.
The stars who were in attendance at the SAG Awards used the platform to voice their stances on the travel ban and their support for immigrants and refugees. Among the most memorable and most vocal of those who spoke out was “Stranger Things” star David Harbour, whose impassioned speech earned him a standing ovation:
“Now, as we act in the continuing narrative of Stranger Things, we 1983 midwesterners will repel bullies, we will shelter freaks and outcasts, those who have no home. We will get past the lies. We will hunt monsters. And when we are at a loss amidst the hypocrisy and the casual violence of certain individuals and institutions, we will, as per Chief Jim Hopper, punch some people in the face when they seek to destroy the meek and the disenfranchised. And we will do it all with soul, with heat, and with joy.”
Several other celebrities spoke out against the travel ban, saying that the president’s executive order did not reflect the values of Americans. First-time SAG winner Mahershala Ali shared a story about the struggle he went through to reconnect with his mother after converting to Islam.
As of Feb. 3, U.S. Federal District Court judge James L. Robart has temporarily halted President Trump’s travel ban, and this decision was upheld by the ninth circuit court of appeals on Feb. 9. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security also put out a statement on Feb. 4 declaring a suspension of the travel ban.
– Mary Grace Costa