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JFK airport roiled by protests against Trump’s immigration ban

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Taxis, trains, and Uber all affected as crowds descend on airport

New York City Taxi TLC (STOCK)

The New York Taxi Workers Alliance called for a temporary ban on pick-ups at John F. Kennedy Airport as a protest against President Trump’s ban on refugees from seven Muslim-dominated countries. The alliance, which represents a wide swath of yellow taxi drivers in New York City, called for a temporary stoppage of pick-ups and drop-offs at JFK between 6PM and 7PM on Saturday.

Calling ALL DRIVERS! YELLOW, UBER, EVERYONE: Do not pick up at JFK Airport tonight, Saturday January 28th, from 6m to...

Posted by NY Taxi Workers Alliance on Saturday, January 28, 2017

“Drivers stand in solidarity with thousands protesting inhumane & unconstitutional,” the alliance tweeted. The group also posted a photo of a desolate-looking Terminal 4 at the airport to illustrate its boycott.

Trump’s executive order, which bans visa holders from the seven countries from entering the country for 90 days, bans refugees from entering the US for 120 days, and also establishes an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees, has sparked protests and chaos at JFK airport. More protests are planned in the coming days. Hundreds of activists gathered to call for the release of a handful of refugees and immigrants who are being detained at the airport, as customs officials seek more clarification from the White House as to the extend of the ban.

The Verge has reached out to the alliance for more information and will update this story when we hear back.

It’s unclear whether Uber stands to benefit at all from the brief yellow cab strike at one of the nation’s busiest airports. Previously, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick wrote on Facebook that the ride-hailing giant was working to identify drivers who might be stuck overseas in order to compensate them while they wait for the restrictions to be lifted.

Uber’s compensation plan was notable for how quickly it was announced following Trump’s immigration ban. Kalanick, among other tech CEOs, is a member of a policy group established to advise Trump on economic and policy issues. A spokesperson said the company did not have advance notice of Trump’s Muslim ban, noting that the compensation plan was conceived today and was still being worked out.

Asked if Kalanick was reconsidering his participation in Trump’s advisory group, the spokesperson said he was not, adding that Kalanick was going “to raise this issue at the first meeting on Friday in DC.”

Update January 28th, 7:34PM ET: The mass protest at JFK airport against Trump’s Muslim ban has apparently led police to restrict access to the AirTrain. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the AirTrain, tweeted that it “respects the right to protest,” but is controlling access due to overcrowding conditions.

Meanwhile, Uber just tweeted that it has deactivated surge pricing at JFK airport during the duration of the protests. Uber did not register a huge spike of demand during the temporary work stoppage for yellow taxis. Nonetheless, the ride-hailing company determined it was best to turn off its price multiplier for rides to and from the airport so as not to look like it was profiting during the unrest.

Update January 28th, 8:13PM ET: The AirTrain shutdown at JFK has apparently been reversed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, according to the governor’s communication director. And in a statement, Cuomo says he directed the MTA and the New York State Police “to assist with transportation and security needs to ensure the safety of all those participating.”

That may help alleviate some of the tension at JFK right now, but given the size of the crowds and the uncertainty surrounding those who have been detained by customs officials, it will take something much bigger than a working AirTrain to bring calm to the scene.

Cuomo has also ordered the New York State Department of State and his counsel’s office to assist those who have been detained at JFK. “This is not who we are, and not who we should be,” the governor said.