When President Trump issued an executive order banning residents of certain Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. last year, airports across the country turned from travel hubs to sites of political protest. In the time since, as debates over immigration and refugee policies have grown more heated around the globe, airports have increasingly become sites of political action. Demonstrators have stormed runways, picketed terminal entrances and blocked airport entrances to prevent deportations.
On Monday, a 21-year-old student in Sweden boarded a flight and refused to take her seat until an Afghan man, who was being deported, was taken off the plane. Elin Ersson livestreamed her action on Facebook, and the 14-minute-long video has so far been viewed over 2 million times.
"A person is going to get [deported] to Afghanistan where there's war, and he's going to get killed," Ersson says into her phone camera as she walks down the aisle of the plane.
"I'm not going to sit down until this person is off the plane," she continues, as other passengers can be heard shouting at her to take her seat. Commercial airplanes aren't permitted to take off unless all passengers are seated.
Ersson and a group of activists purchased her ticket for Monday's flight from Gothenburg, Sweden, to Istanbul because they believed a different man was due to be deported to Afghanistan, but discovered the change later.
In the video, a flight attendant approaches Ersson and tells her to take her seat and turn off her phone. Ersson explains that she wants the pilot, who she says has the authority to have people removed from the plane, to refuse to fly if the Afghan man remains on board.
Ersson is then approached by a male passenger.
"You're upsetting all the people down there," he says. "So I don't care what you think." The man grabs the phone out of Ersson's hand and there's a brief commotion before Ersson's face appears on camera again.
"So an English guy just got really angry and stole my phone, but a flight attendant was really nice and took it back for me," she says.
Another passenger approaches her and says, "It's your country's rules," to which she replies, "Yeah. I'm trying to change my country's rules. I don't like them. It's not right to send people to hell."
"But you are preventing all these passengers from going to their destinations," the man says.
"Yeah," Ersson says, "but they're not going to die. He's going to die."
Ersson keeps the camera pointing at her face, and slowly, people on the plane can be heard breaking out in applause. Her eyes well up with tears.
"I am with you," one passenger tells her.
Eventually, Ersson says that she is able to see that the back door of the plane has been opened, but can't make out what is happening.
"We've opened the door. Both you and that passenger will not fly," a flight attendant tells her.
Applause breaks out again, and Ersson begins to cry.
"So the security's coming. I don't know what they're going to do with me, but whatever," she says to the camera.
Both Ersson and the Afghan man were escorted off the plane, an airport press officer told the Washington Post, but it was unclear what happened after that.
"The deportation was interrupted," Ersson later posted on Facebook. "I don't know any more than that."
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