Four days into America’s Trumpian nightmare, tens of thousands of anti-Trump New Yorkers again descended on Trump Tower on Saturday, marching in a massive protest to the base of the President-elect’s black Midtown skyscraper.
The protesters, clad in ‘Dump Trump’ t-shirts and bearing signs with such messages as ‘Not My President,’ began marching from Union Square around noon, moving west on 17th Street before spilling out onto 5th Avenue, which was closed to vehicular traffic. NYPD helicopters circled periodically overhead, igniting the crowd into cheers: “Say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcome here!”
At the time of the protests, Trump was in his tower meeting with Britian’s leading Brexit proponent, Nigel Farage.
Ruth Frank, 25, works as a fifth grade teacher at East Village Community School, a public school. The aftermath of the election left the Washington Heights native feeling “shocked and a little paralyzed.” But after attending various community meetings in Crown Heights, where she now lives, she feels ready to take action — and says that means joining ranks with movements that are already working to support and protect the people who will be most vulnerable during a Trump presidency, including people of color, queer people, and Muslims.
“I’m feeling like now is the time to connect with groups who are already serving those [vulnerable] populations, and to figure out if they need donations or volunteers,” said Frank. “We have to bolster groups that already exist. They know what services are needed.”
Still, she worries about how to help her students process the news on the heels of an ugly election season that has been impossible for children to ignore. “What can we say to them to be honest and supportive?” Frank wondered aloud as the group stalled at the corner of East 17th Street and Fifth Avenue.
Steve Kineke, 63, a family practitioner from outside Albany, stood near the front of the pack and held a sign which read: “Family MDs For Obamacare.” He said the outcome of the election has him worried about the coming loss of vital services like health insurance.
“If they get rid of Obamacare, a number of people are going to be out of insurance and out of luck,” said Kineke. “I think they should fix it, not get rid of it. Maybe if enough people come out, it will influence policy.”
Trump and his fellow Republicans in Congress, whose horror at his ascendance has been replaced by the giddy anticipation of one united conservative government, have repeatedly vowed to remove President Obama’s signature healthcare legislation, which gave 20 million uninsured Americans health coverage, though sometimes at high costs to employers. Yesterday, Trump told the Wall Street Journal that he’d consider keeping parts of the 2010 law in place.
Though the vibe of the march seemed less frenetic than Wednesday night’s protests, Saturday’s anti-Trump protesters were no less angry. The crowd swelled as call-and-response chants alternated between “My body, my choice!” and “Fuck your tower, fuck your wall!” Double decker tour buses crept down 5th Avenue as passengers crowded on their roofs cheering, blowing whistles and taking photos. Passersby clogged street corners, peering at the spectacle. A police officer filmed the moving crowd near 23rd Street. They filmed him right back.
Jady Sanchez, 21, from Brooklyn, marched waving a large Mexican flag above her head. Sanchez, a Brooklyn College student who had never participated in a protest before, said Trump’s many attacks on Mexican immigrants—including calling them rapists and “bad hombres,” had unfairly made them the enemy, and that she wanted to show people that she would not be made to feel ashamed of her heritage. But it was a moment in a writing class on class, race and identity the day after Election Day, that convinced her to join today’s march.
“Seeing all the Trump supporters in class made me angry. As soon as they walked in they were laughing about the win, rubbing it in people’s faces,” said Sanchez. “They claim that they’re not racist, that they’re colorblind. But when you say stuff like that it means you are. I felt overpowered. I couldn’t say anything because I was scared.”
Her friend, Jenifer Pienczykowski, 21 and also from Brooklyn, helped her hoist the red, green and white Mexican flag above their heads as photographers swarmed around them. She’s Polish, not Mexican, but said that white people had a responsibility to speak up, especially in light of Trump’s win. Both women said they worried the upcoming holidays would demand the public’s attention, shifting this issue to the back burner.
“We shouldn’t keep quiet. We shouldn’t give up this fight,” Pienczykowski said. She added that electoral college reform was needed, noting that Hillary Clinton, despite being unable to secure the needed 270 electoral votes, had won the popular vote. Just four American Presidents have lost the popular vote and won the electoral college.
The NYPD’s barricades began near 53rd Street on both sides of 5th Avenue. Dozens of police officers, some stony and indifferent, others engaging with protesters, and still others openly complaining about “this shit,” stood in a line along 5th Avenue leading up to Trump Tower, which is located between East 56th and 57th Streets.
The sun began to set above them, nearly five hours after they’d departed Union Square. Three women weaved in and out of the crowd waving the Palestinian flag and chanting “Black Lives Matter!”
Kori Goldberg, 60, a kindergarten teacher at P.S. 146 in Carroll Gardens, said her students have been frightened of Donald Trump’s rhetoric since at least the spring.
“They’d be drawing and painting and I’d hear their conversations, that ‘Trump says he will build a wall and I’ll never see my Grandma again,’” said Goldberg. “The little ones have a very visceral reaction. All these decisions are going to affect them.”
Goldberg echoed Frank, the teacher from East Village Community School, in a commitment to supporting groups like Black Lives Matter. “This energy cannot die down, that this man cannot speak for our country,” she said.
Nicole Tay, 25, who is originally from Atlanta but attends Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, said protesting was a fair start. But tomorrow, she said, white allies against Trump had to do the work that people of color could not. A number of attacks against minorities, particularly Muslim women, has broken out in cities across the country this week, the latest on a Q43 bus in Queens where on Thursday a 19-year-old woman wearing hijab was berated by a white couple who insisted she take it off, even attempting to physically pull it off her head.
“White liberals have access to spaces people of color don’t have. We can’t go there and expect to converse [with Trump supporters] calmly,” said Tay, who is Asian-American. “[White people] have to engage with other white people that they know. We need to work together.” Tay held a sign that said: “Dear White Allies: Step Up Your Game.”
“If we really want change we need to mobilize white people,” she added. “People of color are already doing the most we can.”
As the group marched north near Trump Tower a man walked along the perimeter yelling, “Not my president!” Another man walking south on the sidewalk screamed back at him, “Oh yes he is!”