Gay Refugee from Afghanistan Charged with Assault for Blocking Betsy DeVos
A gay man who condemned President Donald Trump's immigration order as driven by irrational fear was himself charged with assault for blocking Education Secretary Betsy DeVos from entering a middle school in Washington, D.C., on Friday. The opposition to DeVos has ranged from legitimate criticism to irrational paranoia, which seems to have driven protesters to physically prevent her from doing her job.
"Some are afraid that the Syrian or Yemeni or Libyan or Sudanese or Iranian or Iraqi family fleeing conflict or persecution is instead coming to take our jobs or threaten our way of life," 31-year-old protester Bilal Ahmed Askaryar wrote in an NPR article last month. Despite denouncing this fear as irrational, Askaryar allegedly engaged in an act of protest based on similar fears of Betsy DeVos.
Over the weekend, Askaryar was charged with misdemeanor assault and failing to obey an officer during a demonstration outside of Jefferson Middle School Academy, Politico reported. The paper also quoted a police report which said Askaryar was given "several lawful orders" to move out of the way of a vehicle, and then pushed an individual identified as "V-1." Listed as a factor under one of the charges is "impeding/assaulting US government cabinet member," Politico added.
Askaryar reportedly pleaded not guilty to the charges. The gay man came to the U.S. as a 5-year-old refugee from Afghanistan in 1990, according to his story in NPR. He reportedly became a naturalized citizen in 2000 and earned a graduate degree from American University. The Washington Blade, D.C.'s LGBT newspaper, identified Askaryar as a "gay D.C. resident."
The fracas with DeVos took place on Friday morning. While the education secretary attempted to get into Jefferson Middle School Academy, a group of protesters blocked the entrance, heckled her, and even physically stood in the way of her vehicle. It seems Askaryar was the man who ran in front of the motorcade, holding a "Black Lives Matter" sign obstructing the vehicle.
This racial message was particularly interesting, since black leaders have praised DeVos for caring about children in their community. "She's not African American, but she's concerned about our children," Dr. Dwight Montgomery, president of the Memphis chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s organization), said of DeVos.
This protest should not have been surprising, however, coming after months of liberal attacks on DeVos. Since President-elect Trump chose her to head the Department of Education, liberals have branded DeVos a racist, an elitist, a foe of public education, a religious extremist, and even — in a harebrained attack — a supporter of child labor. Cynical conservatives would explain these attacks as a desperate ploy by teachers' unions to retain their power in the face of DeVos' outspoken support for school choice.