Hundreds Gather In Washington Square Park For First General Strike Of 2017


Hundreds of anti-Trump New York City workers and students went gathered in Washington Square Park on Friday for a rally in support of the national strike. Dubbed “F17,” the protest was loosely organized on Facebook and Twitter. At least one coalition of online activists, Strike4Democrazy, spent the last few weeks compiling information about planned protests and rallies in cities across the country. A Facebook event advertising the New York even had 5,000 RSVP’s, though actual turnout was considerably less impressive, about 400 people at its peak.

“There are people who are unhappy with this administration but there aren’t too many people willing to put boots on the ground,” said Andy Silva, 46, an I.T. professional from Lyndhurst, New Jersey. Silva took the day off to participate in the strike; he stood watch on the outskirts of the small crowd with a sign that read: “Fact-check everything.”

Most New York City shops remained open for business as usual, though at least one coffee shop in Fort Greene, shut down in support of the strike.

“Some people don’t want to deal with the cold. Some people can’t afford to go on strike,” he said. “I’m going to keep coming out as long as American democracy is being threatened. I’m going to keep raising my voice about it and I’m sure I’m not the only one,” said Silva.

A mix of college students and workers, retired seniors and tourists huddled together in a tight mass. An American flag flew over the group as they struggled at times to rouse the crowd into unified chanting over the faint beat of a drum in the distance: “Donald Trump has got to go!” Newsletters, fliers and email lists circulated the crowd after a brief program of speakers. Students from nearby NYU wandered into the park as the tourist families hung back, excitedly snapped photos of protest signs.

Taka Lomastro, 24, said the Brooklyn restaurant he works in shut down yesterday for “A Day Without An Immigrant,” which caused closures in cities nationwide, especially restaurants.

Lomastro, an immigrant from western Japan living in New York, took Friday off so he could participate, and said he plans to support the growing strike movement as much as possible.

“This is not my country, but I live here and I care about people. So should everyone else,” he said.

Ralph Ferrigno, 70, an architect from Park Slope who said he was on strike on Friday, said a Fairway grocery store in Brooklyn yesterday was mostly empty due to employee participation. And while he was happy to see the crowd in Washington Square Park beef up as the afternoon waned on, he noted differences between the protests of today and the unrest he participated in during the late 1960’s. His friend, Judy Frisk, agreed.

“It’s a bit more complacent and that disturbs me a bit,” said Frisk, 71, who said she has attended nearly all New York’s major marches since the election, on almost a weekly basis. Frisk is retired and lives on the Upper West Side. “In my dreams I would like to see repeated strikes until it forces an independent investigation [into Trump].”

Ultimately, both Frisk and Ferrigno want to see him impeached, something they say they believe is possible given the example Richard Nixon set 43 years ago.

“What Nixon did was kid stuff compared to Trump,” Ferrigno said.

Friday’s turnout represented the first of several strikes planned for this spring — the Women’s March organizers are calling for a strike on March 8, and at least one California union has called for a strike on May 1, International Worker’s Day — though experts say single day work stoppages are unlikely to damage the economy in such a way as to force policy change. And while union-backed labor strikes in the U.S. have a long, rich history, there are fewer examples of true general strikes: mass work stoppages that transcend industry.

“Trump claims to be a business man and a strike affects the bottom line, so his cronies would understand [it],” said Karron Karr, 37, a treasurer at The West Side Theater in Midtown. Karr took the day off and was honest with her employer about why.

“People with unacceptable behavior won’t change unless forced,” she said. “A march might not be enough. A day where we’re not helping them make their profits might be a push.”