Asma Sarowar says her job as a public school teacher has largely kept her from attending many of the protests and demonstrations against the Trump administration that have become part of life in New York City, but that she did not want to miss Sunday’s show of solidarity with Muslims.
“As a Muslim, I came here to America where I was 17 years old. I consider this my country,” Sarowar told the Voice. “So it doesn’t matter what religion or ethnicity you came here as, everybody comes seeking America because of the freedom of religion.”
The rally, #IAmAMuslimToo, was held at 48th and Broadway with the temperature hovering around 60 degrees, in direct response to Trump administration’s Muslim travel ban and the overtly racist members of his cabinet. Russell Simmons (who was friends with Donald Trump until recently), Linda Sarsour, Rabbi Marc Schneier, Susan Sarandon, all spoke. Simmons tweeted that between 7,000 and 10,000 people attended, but the usual crush around Times Square (including the occasional Trump supporter) and the NYPD’s insistence on keeping crosstown traffic flowing diluted the crowd and made that estimate seem high.
Sarowar said she supported Mayor Bill de Blasio, who also spoke at the rally.
“I like the way he’s trying. But we have to do more,” she said. “We have to show our voice more. More people have to come out and demonstrate. Even though we have our job and things, I think we should all make time to come out to show our support, show our unity.”
The mayor urged the crowd to “feel the power that comes with a democratic society and use that power to protect all the gains we have made.” A small group of protesters shouted at him to “End Broken Windows,” but de Blasio spoke over them.
Abdul Mustafa attended the rally with his teenage son and wife, and called de Blasio “one of my favorite mayors.”
“Remember when Long Island hospital was about to close? He went and got arrested for it. I like him, I think he has principles,” he said.
Asked what particularly made him upset about President Trump, Mustafa responded, “everything.”
“To me, I am ashamed to be represented by someone like him.”
Mustafa said he moved to New York City in 1980 from Ethiopia. “My roots may be in Africa, but I am an American. I know America more than I know myself in [Ethiopia]. I have three kids who were born and educated here. This is my country, I have nowhere to go even if I wanted to.”
Sunday was Mustafa’s first demonstration, but he said it wouldn’t be his last.
“[Trump] is separating the people by religion and race by group, and that will never benefit the country. Any time we get an opportunity to protest that we have to participate.”