In the shadow of the Trump International Hotel and Tower, hundreds of New Yorkers protested on March 19 against the hate-driven campaign of the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination whose name (dis)graces the front of so many Manhattan towers.
The protest was called by a small group of leftist soccer players who only recently formed, taking the name of “Cosmopolitan Antifascists.” They created a Facebook event, never imagining that within days, the number of replies would number in the thousands, with eventually almost 15,000 saying they were “interested.”
Around a thousand people actually showed up, a multiracial crowd that represented the diversity of life in New York City. They chanted slogans that welcomed refugees, immigrants and Muslims — and a variety of other messages that let Donald Trump know that he’s not so welcome in their city.
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Protesters filled the Merchant’s Gate entrance to Central Park for the noontime rally. Many were young, but alongside them stood a wide range of people from all backgrounds and experiences. Some were older immigrants from Latin America, young children who held homemade signs while sitting on their parent’s shoulders and Muslim women who proudly wore their hijab and held up their anti-Trump posters.
Holding up a poster drawn to look like a wall with words that read “Build tolerance not walls,” Alice Ro said that she hoped that “people don’t see Trump as representing the sentiments of New Yorkers or Americans.” When asked how she thought we could stop him, she said she had “no clue how to stop Trump besides not staying silent”.
One of the speakers at the rally, Sofia Arias of the International Socialist Organization, addressed this question by citing the recent Chicago protest that caused the cancellation of a planned Trump rally.
“How did they do it?” she asked the crowd. “It wasn’t a hashtag, it wasn’t because people said that if we just ignore him, he’ll go away. Because that’s clearly not happening. And it wasn’t because the other candidates made him stop, all of them are responsible for the racist climate we’re living in, and that is emboldening people to commit racist attacks.”
Instead, Arias continued, “it was through mass protest, multiracial solidarity. It was Black Lives Matter, it was Muslims, it was students, it was immigrants, it was labor. Thousands of people organized and drove him out of town. They showed we have a right to protest and we’re not going to stay in the shadows.”
Despite the uncertainly of some rally participants about how to go about defeating Trump, none believed that they were violating his right to free speech. Instead, many pointed to the fact that Trump has enjoyed disproportionate amounts of airtime to project his hate when compared to the campaign waged by Bernie Sanders, who is more widely supported than Trump — and certainly less widely despised.
At the rally, socialists, anarchists and Sanders supporters mingled with hundreds of others who were not dedicated activists, but who felt the need to show up and let their voices be heard and their views be known.
On the other side of the police barricades stood the NYPD vans, scooters, cars and dozens — if not hundreds — of cops with zip ties at their hips waving back and forth as they walked up and down the street.
Blue jackets with the abbreviations of the multiple NYPD task forces could be seen throughout Columbus Circe, interspersed among the masses of tourists curiously looking on. There were officers from the Technical Assistance Response Unit (TARU) on hand to record the protest, rows of cops from the Strategic Response Group — an anti-protest unit recently created by “liberal” Mayor Bill de Blasio — and even cops with blue jackets that read “NYPD Legal”, all of whom watched as the crowd swelled to over a thousand as time went on.
After rallying for about an our, protesters began marching on the sidewalks towards Trump’s other commercial property in midtown Manhattan. Along the way bystanders looked on, New Yorkers watched from their apartment windows and store windows were filled with people watching the NYPD intimidate people from marching in the streets, effectively stopping traffic themselves.
A cheer could be heard from the marchers anytime bystanders honked or fist pumped in support of the rally. A band of protester musicians kept the energy of the marchers high as they trekked through the streets with drums banging to the rhythm of their chants.
At one point during the march, three protesters were arrested for disorderly conduct after cops instigated a confrontation by not letting marchers cross an intersection. Once at Trump Tower, marchers formed a picket around the building, listened to people soapbox and chanted before marching back to Columbus Circle where the rally had started.
During the march, Froilan Loayza spoke about the need for people to stop underestimating Trump, who is appealing to people who “feel like their voice doesn’t matter because all politicians are bought and are concerned only for personal gain.”
When asked about Trump’s probable Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, Froilan said that he would “like to think she’s a good person at some level and even though I think she’s trying to work the monster, I don’t doubt that she’s a monster herself”. Like many other people at the protest, Froilan is backing Sanders in the Democratic primary.
With Clinton in control of the Democratic race, Sanders supporters are going to face the decision of whether they will shift allegiance in the name of stopping Trump (or Ted Cruz) in November.
Arias addressed that question in her speech:
I know a lot of people are worried about what’s going to happen if Trump is president. I’m afraid of a Trump presidency. I’m also terrified of a Clinton presidency. Hillary Clinton is responsible for building up the wall at the border, for the record number of deportations, for children being sent back to Honduras and being murdered. We need to keep organizing, no matter who is in office. We need to stop the raids. We need to stop the deportations happening right now. That’s how we’re going to end these attacks.”
Despite the differences of opinion about whether to support any Democrat as a lesser evil to Trump, all those who protested on Saturday agreed on the need to continue to take collective action against Trump’s promotion of hatred. This sentiment is clearly growing. On the same day as the demonstration in New York City, anti-Trump protesters shut down a highway in Arizona that led to a scheduled Trump rally.
Even before the Chicago protest, there had been disruptions at dozens of Trump rallies for months. But counter-protests that are hundreds and thousands strong signify a new development.
Diena, a retired home care worker, immigrant from the Dominican Republic and self-identified “revolucionaria,” gave voice to the determined resistance that Trump is going to continue to face:
We are seeing violence against immigrants across the world but we feel it here most because there are many immigrants in this country. They say we are criminals but the overwhelming majority of us come to the United States to help our families move forward. My children were born here and have grown up here and I will never leave this country.