Rabbis protest outside of the Trump Tower in Midtown this morning in response to the government’s immigration policies. Photo by Monay Robinson
Dozens of rabbis gathered outside the Trump Tower in Midtown this morning and held up signs that read “My father was a Syrian refugee” and “Resisting tyrants since Pharaoh” in response to the administration’s immigration policies including the Muslim ban and ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
Rabbi Mira Rivera stood firm in the middle of the crowd while projecting her voice through a loudspeaker. Her words canceled out the morning traffic on Fifth Avenue.
“We stand with all immigrants, we stand with the displaced, we stand with our fathers, mothers and grandparents,” Rivera said. “I am a child, a product of a green card marriage, of two people who came to the United States looking for a new life.”
Rivera’s parents immigrated from the Philippines, where she also grew up. She thanked them for all the opportunities she had in her life including her college degree.
“They gave me the ability to study,” she said. “They gave me the chance to know and to never take for granted that I as a person of color have to work harder, longer and stand when everyone else has gone to bed.”
Rivera said immigrants refugees are suffering because of government initiatives.
“DACA was in place and that’s a portion of the 11 million undocumented,” she said. “This city alone cannot stand without the work of their parents and them themselves. That would be completely impossible from the babysitters, to the people that clean and maintain, the people that are in our offices.”
Rabbi Jose Rolando Matalon, a native of Argentina, spoke to the crowd about his family background.
“I am an immigrant from Argentina,” Matalon said. “My grandparents came from Syria with nothing to Argentina and they were given a safe place to grow and to prosper. I would like our country to give the same opportunities to anyone who wants to come.”
Matalon said the administration is disregarding the needs of immigrants and refugees who are searching for prosperity and safety. He has seen a regression in America’s tradition of welcoming and embracing everyone.
“Conditions are getting very difficult for immigrants who live here,” he said. “I believe that this is done to preserve some sort of whiteness in America which has nothing to do with the essence of this country.”
Rabbi Jill Jacobs, 41, is the Executive Director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights based in Manhattan, which hosted the protest.
T’ruah has about 2,000 rabbi members across North America who work to advance human rights.
The protest took place during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which symbolizes vulnerability.
“The holiday of Sukkot is a holiday in which we put up these fragile structures and effectively live in them for the course of the week,” Jacobs said. “It’s a reminder that no matter how many walls or barriers we might build that’s not what actually keeps us safe.”
During the protest, rabbis built a pop-up sukkah, which was placed in the middle of the crowd and carried along Fifth Avenue as protesters marched. The sukkah was a green and white temporary structure which read “Welcome” above the entrance.
“The sukkah is open,” she said. “It’s a place that we welcome people and those themes are diametrically opposed to the current administration’s policy on immigrants which is to close the borders of America.”
Jacobs’ family came to the United States at the beginning of the 20th century from Poland and Ukraine.
“We were able to come because the borders were open at that point,” she said. “In 1924 they closed to Jews and therefore people who were trying to flee Nazi Germany were not able to come. We understand whether the borders were open or closed is a life or death proposition.”
Protestors marching for Puerto Rico outside of the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building yesterday. Photo by Monay Robinson
Protesters gathered outside the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building yesterday to express their anger over the U.S. government’s slow response in aiding Puerto Rican victims of Hurricane Maria.
Red, white and blue Puerto Rican flags were waved along with signs that read “No American should be hungry” and “Rise up Puerto Rico.” The protesters marched in a circle and chanted, “Eight days and still we wait,” “Abolish the debt” and “Abolish the Jones Act.”
The Jones Act requires items from the U.S. to be shipped on American-owned and operated ships. According to CNN Money, this act has caused it to be “twice as expensive to ship things” from the U.S. to Puerto Rico. It was temporarily suspended yesterday, eight days after the hurricane destroyed the island, which is a US commonwealth and whose residents are American citizens.
Hurricane Maria first hit Puerto Rico the morning of Sept. 20th with powerful winds reaching up to 140 mph. Residents were left without power, water, food and shelter.
Ambar Martinez, 33, of Brooklyn, attended the rally with her mother. They have family living on the southwest part of the island and waited six days to hear from them. She found out her grandmother lost the roof to her house and everything inside, including sofas, mattresses and beds, was destroyed.
“I think he (Donald Trump) is not giving it any importance,” Martinez said. “It is not important to him and he would rather spend his time on the internet bashing people over other topics.”
Janette Messina of Brooklyn attended the rally with her daughter. She wore a white hat with a black band that read “Puerto Rico.”
“We are here today to show the administration that they cannot forget about our people in Puerto Rico,” she said. “They are taking their time. They are treating us like second world citizens and we are U.S. citizens.”
Messina’s parents are from Puerto Rico and she currently has family there. She was able to contact some of her family through a texting app.
“One of them texted me today and we were ecstatic,” she said. “ I assured her that we are helping. Don’t think that you are alone. You may not hear us, but please feel us.”
Messina said even though her family is doing badly, they are still alive. She has yet to be able to reach all of her family..
“We cry every day,” Messina said. “We try them every day. In my heart and in my soul, I believe they are alive. But my heart cannot tell me if their house is still there.”
Erica Hernandez, 35 of East Harlem, is trying to spread awareness of the living tragedy in Puerto Rico.
“Puerto Rico is my motherland,” Hernandez said. “It’s where my parents were born. It’s where I’m from and the island where I got married. It means the world to me.”
She has donated supplies and does not know what else to do to help.
“Right now we feel very helpless,” she said through tears. “I don’t know what else I can do. I came here to use my voice because that’s the only thing I know to do right now.”
Protesters chanting “No to Rouhani” at the Free Iran rally outside of the United Nations yesterday. Photo by Monay Robinson
They beat drums, waved Iranian flags and chanted “No to Rouhani” at the Free Iran rally outside the United Nations yesterday.
They hoped their cries could be heard by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who gave a speech to the U.N. General Assembly at the time of the protest.
Hosted by the Organization of Iranian American Communities, the rally was filled with hundreds of protesters dressed in yellow. Many had horrific memories of their lives in Iran and blame the government for the suffering they said Iranians continue to endure.
“More than 30 of his high-ranking cabinet members are the ones who are directly involved in the infamous political massacre of the Iranian political prisoners in 1988,” said Amir Blurchi, one of the organizers.
Yesterday was the anniversary of the 1988 Massacre where more than 30,000 political prisoners were executed.
In honor of the executed piles of worn out shoes were placed next to signs that read “Where is my brother’s grave? Where is my sister buried?” Red Roses were also scattered amongst the signs.
“We call on the U.N. to establish an independent commission of inquiry on the 1988 massacre of political prisoners,” Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran said to the protesters. “Why do you U.N.’s doors continue to be opened to the officials of a regime which has kept their grip on power by shedding an ocean of blood?”
Khosrow Ziaei, 71, native of Iran who lives in Toronto, Canada, said he witnessed horrendous acts in the 1980s right before the massacre.
“It’s unbelievable, they tortured my brother in front of my eyes,” he said. “They tortured husbands and wives, sometimes they tortured the children. I saw it with my eyes, one night in 1983, they tortured a girl until she died. I can never forget it.”
Sara Fallah, 55, also traveled from Toronto, Canada to attend the rally.
“There have been mass executions of people right after Rouhani was elected, more than 350 people,” she said.
Fallah said Iranians as young as 10 are being put in prison.
And mass arrests and executions are not the only sorrows under Rouhani’s presidency, she said.
“More than 85 percent of Iranian people are living under the poverty line,” Fallah said. “Money is in the hands of very limited people.”