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Donald Trump returned to New York last night for the first time since his election as president and was greeted by throngs of jeering protesters outside of his home at Trump Tower. Thousands pressed up against police barricades addressing the president directly with drums, horns, and chants of “New York hates you.”
The protest came days after a white supremacist in Charlottesville, Virginia, drove his car into a crowd of anti-racist demonstrators, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and wounding nineteen others. Trump was slow to condemn the hate groups organizing the “Unite the Right” rally, taking days to issue a specific statement beyond generalized comments about violence on “many sides.”
While there have been dozens of anti-Trump demonstrations in the city since the election, the gathering last night seemed focused squarely on recent events, with many placards invoking Heyer’s name and condemning the neo-Nazi and white nationalist ideologies on display in Virginia.
Rhina Mercado of Harlem said she had come out to oppose someone she considers a racist and illegitimate ruler.
“I’m here because we don’t welcome him here,” Mercado said. “It’s obvious that he’s a white supremacist.”
Trump Tower. Succinct. pic.twitter.com/l5D5Q9EHfB
— Jon Campbell (@j0ncampbell) August 15, 2017
The fact that it took Trump days to directly condemn the hate groups behind the rally in Virginia, Mercado said, shows that his ultimate comments were disingenuous. “Obviously he was forced to do it,” Mercado said. “It obviously wasn’t sincere.”
Crowds began gathering around 5 p.m. on the corners around the tower but were blocked by NYPD barriers a half-block from their destination. Security cordons around the tower have been in place since before the election, with a permanent police presence and occasional bag checks on nearby blocks.
Charlottesville had been the scene of widespread violence as counterprotesters faced off against white nationalist and militia groups, some of them heavily armed. More than thirty injuries were reported as the sides battled each other with sticks, fists, and pepper spray. The city’s police department has been criticized for what Governor Terry McAuliffe characterized as a hands-off approach designed to minimize provocation of armed demonstrators.
A handful of counter protesters are also here at Trump Tower pic.twitter.com/vyuUPVovxU
— Jon Campbell (@j0ncampbell) August 14, 2017
“You can’t stop some crazy guy who came here from Ohio and used his car as a weapon,” he told the Times. “He is a terrorist.”
There was nothing like that at Trump Tower, where a small group of counter-demonstrators remained behind a police cordon and traded insults with protest attendees.
Crowds began to thin around 10 p.m. The NYPD said three arrests were made, for obstructing governmental administration, reckless endangerment, and refusing to disperse.