A group of NYC council members knelt on the steps of City Hall yesterday. The action was a show of solidarity with Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players who are protesting police brutality and racial injustice in America. Photo by Farnoush Amiri
Donning a black “IAmWithKap” t-shirt under a striped fitted blazer while holding up a red San Francisco 49ers jersey with Colin Kaepernick’s name and number inscribed on the back, Councilman Jumaane D. Williams (D-Brooklyn) led a group of council members in a “Kneel In” on the steps of City Hall yesterday morning, just days after President Trump called out demonstrations in the NFL.
The group of about 15 city officials joined together to display unity against the president’s tweets, which called the action of kneeling during the presentation of the National Anthem a “disrespect of our country,” and suggested that the NFL owners should get any “son of a bitch,” who doesn’t stand off the field.
“This here today was a protest,” council member Inez Barron (D-Brooklyn) said. “It was perhaps silent but it speaks volume in the action we are taking.”
This form of protest began back in 2016, when Kaepernick chose to kneel during the National Anthem in protest of the recent rise of police brutality against African-Americans in the US. The now free agent became the league’s unofficial symbol for the cause for police reform and civil rights for minorities.
“Protesting is probably the most American thing that one can do,” Williams said. “It is in fact the only thing that has ever propelled this country to move forward. Everything we have enjoyed from this country has come from protesting.”
The city officials demonstrating the right to protest also brought light to the lack of attention the president is directing toward Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. They said his focus on NFL players’ right to protest is a distraction from more pressing concerns. One council member even alluded to racism being the reason for the president’s hesitation to devote more attention to the Caribbean island.
“The struggle for racial justice, which we are honoring by taking a knee today, is not narrowing about policing because obviously we have systematic racism in our housing, segregation in schooling and now even in our hurricane relief response,” Councilman Brett Lander (D-Brooklyn) said.
Lander, along with Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Queens,) were just a few of the leaders who showed support for their minority colleagues whose cause they said they are able to empathize with.
“I stand as an ally. Obviously I am not a person of color, but I feel that white people, myself included, need to stand up for this cause and need to remember how it all started, which is an action against police brutality and the experience that people of color experience, oftentimes at the hands of police,” Dromm said to the crowd outside City Hall.
Andy King (D-Bronx,) also believes that the president and others who are not directly affected have an obligation to the ones who are.
“I will ask Donald Trump, live a day in a black man’s shoes, live a day in a Hispanic’s shoes, you’ll have different perspective of the world because you were born with a spoon in your mouth,” King said.
For African American councilmembers, this cause is a personal one, but they know that not unlike the dozens of other civil rights marches and causes that have occurred in this country, this one will also begin and end with the act of nonviolent protest.
“When this started months ago, many of us made it clear that this was not about the flag, this is not about patriotism,” Williams said. “This is about a system of supremacy, a system of oppressive policy that has been around a long time, and many people have tried to use patriotism to stop people from protesting and we’ve said that that will not last.”
Protestors march 28 blocks from Union Square to Bryant Park on January 30 to protest Trump’s ban on immigration. Photo by Brelaun Douglas
Braced against the cold of a late January night, their breath mixing with the icy air with every chant, protestors gathered at Union Square in Manhattan to rally against President Trump’s recent ban on immigrants from several countries.
Decked in scarves, gloves and with signs that read “ We are Earthlings” and “ Students in Solidarity,” they chanted “No ban. No registry. F*ck White supremacy,” and let it be known that they wouldn’t stand for the president’s executive order.
Taking a break from crying out “One solution: revolution” a student was called forward to tell her own personal story.
“When I came in on the train on the 26th, it was the day before the ban,” said the Iranian born student living in Canada who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution. “I was searched because they thought that I was coming and going to the U.S. too many times. They searched everything: they searched my notebooks, my writings, my phone. The Farsi and the Hebrew in my stuff alarmed them, I could tell,” said the student who is getting her PhD in politics at the New School.
On Friday, Trump signed an executive order banning immigration from seven Muslim majority countries for 90 days, barring Syrian refugees indefinitely and suspending refuge admissions for 120 days.
The order quickly prompted nation-wide protests as thousand flocked to airports over the weekend to protest the ban and demand that detained refugees be let free.
The PhD student went on to tell a sea of shocked faces that she was told she was only allowed to stay in the U.S. until February 3.
“The officer said that he will be on the train to make sure that I am on it and if not he will send Trump’s people after me,” she said. “Now I have to go back and I don’t know if I can return. I don’t know what’s going to happen with my PhD, and more importantly to me, I don’t now if I’m going to ever see the people or the city that I love so much again. It’s a very traumatic experience because I already went through that as a child and you work so hard to heal those wounds. You just don’t imagine this happening again in what you call a liberal democracy.”
Many of the protestors had amassed in the square following a rally at the New School. Among them was Mariel Gauger, a second year student at the New School with an undeclared major.
“I’m here to share solidarity with all the immigrant students at the New School who might be put in danger by Trump’s new policies,” she said. “I think Trump is only the tip of the iceberg with this kind of stuff.”
While in the square, protestors were joined by others who wanted to show their support, including Anthony Cartagine, a third year economic student at Baruch College.
“I’m out here to protest against Trump, and to protest the ban especially, and to support the people that are threatened by Trump,” he said. “When I first heard about it, it was very upsetting. It felt a bit shocking even though it’s what he said he was going to do.”
For many, what they wanted to result from the rallies and the protests was clear.
“With all the rallies and the protest I would like to see people mobilizing beyond just the rallies,” said Cartagine as he marched 28 blocks with the group to Bryant Park to meet up with more students from Fordham University and Columbia. “ They help inspire other forms of action and I think that probably the best thing to do is [for] people to just continue to act beyond the protest and take action whenever they can.”
But for the PhD student, it was more difficult to articulate her exact wants.
“Where I hope this goes, I have no idea,” she said. “Open borders and less wars. My hopes are too much to say right now”
Ellen McCann, 44, was held up a sign that read ” You run better than our government” to uplift every marathon runner passing by her on Sunset Park. Photo by Julie Liao
At 4th Avenue near Sunset Park in Brooklyn, Ellen McCann was hailing New York City Marathon runners with a smile and a sign that read, “You run better than our government.
Amused by McCann’s sign, a young runner shouted, “I do run better” as he gasped for breath.
“It’s just a joke about our government,” McCann said. “This means, ‘our government doesn’t run very well, but you do.’” she laughed. “While you’re running, you get very bored and the signs are funny and they make you laugh and they distract you.”
McCann was not alone. Standing beside her was her friend, Kimberly Gittines. They tracked down their friends and families on the phone who were running on the ready to cheer them on.
Around 11:00 a.m., McCann’s fiancé appeared in a group of runners. He dashed to her, kissed her hand, said,“ I love you”, and continued running.
McCann and her fiancé live in Virginia. Both of them are big fans of running.
“We work out about two hours a day, both of us together,” said McCann. “That’s how we spend time.”
Although she wanted to run in the marathon, she wasn’t chosen in the lottery.
“I like New York City,” she said. “It’s alive all day and all night. This isn’t the safest neighborhood , but it welcomes people. You don’t find that anywhere else. New York is awesome. I’ve always thought so.”
Last week, she ran the Marine Corps Marathon in Virginia with Gittines. They were next-door neighbors and knew each other for nearly three decades. The races are more like precious opportunities for them to spend time together.
“She lives in Virginia and I live in New Jersey and we don’t really get to catch up a lot,” said Gittines. “So it’s like catching up on the kids and work and our parents and all that stuff alike.”
When Gittines started to run marathons in 2011, her mother was severely ill because of cancer.
“I actually ran my first marathon two weeks before she passed away,” said Gittines. “I hadn’t trained. But I figured I’d go out and see how it was and I could push through the pain because I knew there was an end point. She didn’t have an end point and that’s what I thought when I ran. That helped me along in my run.”
After her mother died, she kept participating in marathons. Her memories with her mother always comes to her mind while she is running.
“I always think of her,” said Gittines. “When I grew up, we used to play golf with our families. And she was like, ‘here’s Kimberly! Putting for a birdie! It’s win! Yeah Kimberly!’ ”
Gittines said even though her mother had never watched her running marathons, she knew her mom would be supportive. “Whatever my brother and I did, she thought it was the best thing in the world.”
McCann’s niece, Regan Debennetto, 31, was also running in memory of her father, who died of a heart attack in 2002. After that, she began to run marathons. This time she ran for the American Heart Association and planned to raise money for them by finishing the whole course.
“For my niece, she says every five miles she runs for one person and she doesn’t want to let them down,” said McCann. “So five miles she runs for her father; five miles she runs for her grandmother and she wants to go home and tell grandma about those five miles she ran for her.”