Monday, January 30, 2017

Protest at the Friendship Airport

That local protest can unfold inside an airport proponents of the presidential travel ban never tired of observing with wonder. "Why not arrest them all" or "with all the security how the hell did they get in" where frequent online comments scrolling under the live reporting of WBAL from BWI. One is tempted to assume that these comments came from people who never travel, for the ignorance about airport security and the willingness to curtail free travel in general.
Friendship Airport aka BWI  (Photo: Philipsen)

The spontaneous protest at the international arrival gate spread also to Baltimore on Sunday and it was powerful as my video shows which was now been seen over six-thousand times. Crowds arrived by light rail making a pro transit statement. A lady with a suitcase emerging from a packed train didn't mind, although her purpose was travel: "It was packed in a good way", she said.

The International arrival hall in Terminal E of the Thurgood Marshall International Airport is usually eerily empty. Not Sunday, though. Shouts and slogans rang out and everyone emerging from customs was jubilantly welcomed by a tightly packed crowd of what could have been well over a 1000 people. The demonstrators filled also the adjoining hallways and more and more folks with placards gave up their quiet Sunday afternoons to be at the airport, a place
The airport as the Commons? (Photo: Philipsen)
that has given up its function as a family Sunday destination sometime in the early sixties when planes were still a novelty and could be watched from viewing platforms with envied travelers strolling leisurely across the tarmac what was then called Friendship Airport and belonged to the City of Baltimore. Yesterday, the protesters turned the successful and growing airport into Friendship Airport once again. Of course, whether friendship should be extended to strangers is one of the questions that now divides the nation. The airport's namesake, Thurgood Marshall also provides good guidance:


In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute. 
Friendship Airport in the fifties.
This is the new America, the one we wake up to every morning, rubbing our eyes, wondering can it really be true. The smaller half feeling a jubilant jolt and the bigger half the kind of sorrowful peng that comes when an unwanted reality settles back in that sleep had mercifully obliterated.

Recently when I asked in this space where Baltimore's proper Commons would be, meaning a civic gathering space, I had not considered that US airports could become the commons of the day across an entire country, even if only for those who feel aggrieved by current policies.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Friendship observation deck.