A crowd gathers for the “Rally Against Hate” at Tompkins Square Park yesterday. Photo by Rebeca Corleto.
On the 10th day of President Donald Trump’s administration, a protest in New York City was nothing new. But in light of several executive orders signed by the president in under two weeks, a renewed sense of urgency ignited the protest at Tompkins Square Park in the East Village yesterday.
The scene was covered with homemade signs supporting immigrants, refugees, women, and equality.
“No hate, no fear, everyone is welcome here,” chanted the crowd.
President Trump’s opposition has a lot to protest about. No less than 15 executive orders have been signed so far. Cristina Montanez of the Lower East Side, couldn’t decide which was the most upsetting to her.
“It’s really hard to single one out,” said Montanez. “It’s just all so disappointing, what’s happening right now. Everything is just terrible. The immigration ban, abortion, the wall.”
Montanez came to the rally with her husband and two young children. The family is originally from Queens and now lives on the Lower East Side. After hearing about the “Rally Against Hate” from her daughter’s school, the family decided to show support.
“We are going to support full throttle and we are going to stand behind the organizers because we have no other choice right now,” she said.
Like millions of Americans, Montanez is the daughter of immigrants. Her parents came to the U.S. from Colombia in the 1960s. When President Kennedy was assassinated, her mother cried. On the night of the election, Montanez herself cried.
“It touches home,” she said. “My parents are immigrants. And I’m a woman. I can’t believe that this is happening. I’m feeling confused, anger, shock. I’m scared for my kids. There’s going to be a revolution or something. This is the land of immigrants.”
Seth Tobocman took his personal protest a step further. Tobocman is a New Yorker since 1976, and a resident of the Lower East Side. Find a protest in NYC in the past two weeks and you’d likely see Tobocman there—handing out his paper, “How Do We Fight Back? “The paper features contact information of many organizations leading the Trump resistance movement, illustrated with political cartoons. The paper answered the question asked by many protestors: What can I do next?
“We got together a list of organizations—people want to figure out how to get involved,” said Tobocman. “Beyond going out to something once. People look into things long-term and they get involved in organizations. This paper is just one to help people organize.”
Melody Estevez, 22, joined her fellow members of the Lower East Side Girls Club at the rally. The group also attended the Women’s March on NYC on January 21st.
“The ban is the most concerning issue to me,” said Estevez. “He’s marginalizing the wrong people, and not really getting to the root of the issue. And he’s avoiding the real issues here—like gun rights.”
As immigrants or children of immigrants, many of the girls that Estevez works with at the Lower East Side Girls Club were worried about their futures after hearing the recent executive orders.
“[The girls] are freaking out and they come to the club and we just tell them that we are fighting for you,” she said. “We are trying to spread the word about knowing your rights. Know what you can do if someone comes to your door.”
Estevez hoped that with enough physical support at rallies like this one, the message would reach the administration.
“We’re coming out in great numbers, and it’s not violent. We are peaceful. We are pro-people. And we are here to show him [Trump] that if he keeps doing these types of things, we’re just going to keep coming out. That’s the fight ahead.”
Tamara Morejon, 14, of Long Island City, in the side lot of the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens on Jan. 30, 2017. Morejon was at the “He Will Not Divide Us” installation for her third time. Photo by Razi Syed.
Nestled between a brick-lined apartment building and pale grey office suites, an ever-changing group of teenagers and young adults softly chanted “He will not divide us” over and over again in the side lot of an Astoria, Queens museum yesterday..
“I’m here for my parents, who came here from Mexico,” said Tamara Morejon, 14, of Long Island City, standing beside the Museum of the Moving Image, where “HE WILL NOT DIVIDE US” is painted on the wall. “They’re undocumented; they don’t have the same benefits that immigrants have.”
Morejon said she was there for the third day in a row, usually staying for several hours on each visit, and that she intended to come back for as long as her parents lacked the rights of citizenship.
Since Trump was inaugurated, 11 days ago, performance artists Shia LaBeouf, Nastja Säde Rönkkö and Luke Turner have asked members of the public to stand in front of the text and chant, ‘he will not divide us,’ for as long as they wish. A mounted camera, located just below the text, livestreams the activity at hewillnotdivide.us
“Open to all, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the participatory performance will be live-streamed continuously for four years, or the duration of the presidency,” reads a statement from the trio explaining their work. “In this way, the mantra ‘HE WILL NOT DIVIDE US’ acts as a show of resistance or insistence, opposition or optimism, guided by the spirit of each individual participant and the community.”
During an hour-long period beginning at 3 p.m.,around 20 people braved wind chill and temperatures in the 30s to participate in the exhibit. The number of people at any one time varied from four to 10.
The soft, trance-like chants in front of the text were periodically stopped as the chanters broke off into conversations with one another while standing on the sandy side lot where the words “one people, one love” and the shape of a heart were carved into the ground.
Harry Maria, 32, of Castle Hill, Bronx, was there for his second time, after a brief visit the previous week.
“It hasn’t been as busy as I hoped but the energy is amazing,” Maria said. “The main thing is, this gives us a platform to voice our opinions and make sure we’re heard.”
Maria said the view Trump and his supporters have on immigration to the United States were hypocritical.
“No disrespect to anyone,” Maria said, “but I feel that a lot of us when you look at yourself in the mirror — whether it’s first generation, second generation, third generation — no matter how far you want to go back: someone in your family was given the opportunity to come to this land, and work hard to better their life.”
Christian Mansfield, 33, of Sunnyside, Queens, said executive order freezing the processing of refugees and barring citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from traveling to the United States was the action he felt he had to oppose most strongly. Mansfield said he was inspired, however, after watching a week-long string of demonstrations against the new administration, from the women’s march on the day following the inauguration to the spontaneous airport protests on Sunday.
“I’m only 33-years-old but this is the first time I’ve seeing anything like this,” he said. “So often people say, ‘Why protest? It doesn’t make any difference.’
“But I remember the fight for gay marriage — I protested for equal rights, I marched after Prop 8,” Mansfield continued. “Now gay men and women can get married and I have a husband, so I’ll always love seeing people fight for what they believe in.”
Parents, students and teachers gathered outside Sen. Chuck Schumer’s office, and voiced their concerns about Betsy DeVos’ pending appointment to Secretary of Education. Public Education Watchdogs organized the demonstration and pressed Sen. Schumer to block DeVos’ confirmation during this week’s Senate vote.
Since the demonstration, a Senate panel met on Tuesday afternoon and voted 12-11 in favor of DeVos. This will advance her confirmation to a full Senate vote for final approval. Democrats remain hopeful they can acquire the three Republican votes needed to block her appointment. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have both expressed their own reservations with DeVos’ appointment, but neither have confirmed the direction of their vote.
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”
Medical students skip class to protest the repeal of Obamacare in front of the Fox News building in Midtown, Manhattan. Photo by Sophie Herbut
In front of the Fox News building on Avenue of the Americas this evening, a band of mostly medical students in white coats, huddled together and protested against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act as cars zoomed by next to them, some honking in agreement.
“We believe that it’s important to protect people’s healthcare,” said Alex Gomez, a fourth-year medical student. “And protecting the ACA is the first step to doing that.”
It was beginning to turn dark as another large group of medical students crossed the streets to join the crowd already in place. Their signs were colorful and creative, some quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, but the most common sign had a simple message: do no harm.
“I went into medicine so I could help people who are in pain and who needed help,” Gomez, 31, said. “We as doctors can prescribe medications, give appointment, we can perform surgery but unless we work on changing the laws we can’t be sure out patients stay healthy.”
Trump has made it his initiative to repeal the ACA, or Obamacare, since his presidential campaign. This protest comes after Trump signed an executive order to “minimize the unwarranted economic and regulatory burdens of the Act.” Many people believe this is the first step in completely repealing the ACA, leaving millions uninsured.
Gomez said that while the ACA is not perfect, it is still more comprehensive than anything be proposed to replace it. He said he would like to see it reformed, not repealed.
Toby Cohen, a third-year medical student, said that the repercussions of repealing Obamacare would affect his sister who is self-employed. Without the ACA, his sister’s insurance rate would be much more expensive than that of an employee of a large organization.
“Insurance premiums are cheaper when you buy in bulk,” Cohen, 29, said. “It is expensive for a lot of people but the other options are much more expensive.”
The other options would either be in purchasing insurance individually or going without it and paying for hospital bills.
“People without insurance don’t see their doctors regularly,” said Cohen. “They can end up in the emergency room and end up bankrupt paying those bills.”
Many have predicted tragedies that could happen if the ACA is repealed and it is not unreasonable to think the worst when someone’s life is at risk.
“There is literature that says that if the ACA is repealed 43,000 people will die,” Gomez said.
That statistic is what inspired the protesters to drop on the sidewalk suddenly, lie down and stay quiet for a few minutes, feigning death.
Two women who had stumbled upon the protest stood on the sidelines. They were an older couple who said that they knew if they “head to the Trump tower, [they] would find a protest.”
“If they don’t have the ACA, the hospitals will eat the cost and the people will go bankrupt,” Donna Templeton, 69, said.
She works as a nurse practitioner in Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey in the mental health and addiction department. Templeton said many of her patients receive Medicaid and without it the entire department would probably be in danger.
“If the mental health patients lose their insurance they don’t get their medicine,” she said.
Templeton said that if they get rid of the pre-existing conditions clause of the ACA, her wife, Sandra Powers, might be in trouble.
“I got back problems, I have an eye condition,” Powers, 58, said. “Where am I going to go?”
Powers said she’s disagreed with politicians in the past but it’s never been this divisive before but she says that she continues to protest and fight for her grandkids.
“I feel like they’re systematically trying to get rid of human rights,” she said.
Hundreds of protesters gathered Monday at Tompkins Square Park Rally Against Hate, and many carried creative signs including this unofficial quote from Lady Liberty herself. Photo Credit: Cassidy Morrison
Hundreds gathered at Tompkins Square Park tonight for the Rally Against Hate, displaying signs that supported an end to racism, the ban on Muslim refugees, the proposed building of a border wall, and women’s reproductive rights. This was just the latest in a week fraught with protests and marches against the new Trump Administration’s executive actions.
The recent proliferation of protests and grassroots movements points to increased public discourse on politics and human rights. The Rally Against Hate was one example of an energized city eager to invoke change in Washington.
“This is a school night, and look how many people are here,” Sheryl Nelson, 41 of the West Village said, pointing to her 12-year-old son. “There have been protests in D.C. in the past about pro-choice, against nuclear war, what have you, and I feel like I’ve never seen so many people out protesting.. I think that elected officials will see that people are showing up and protesting and chanting, and hopefully that will inspire them to do the right thing,” Nelson said.
Rather than dwelling on the fear that permeates throughout the country, protesters expressed their optimism that public demonstrations would inspire the public at large to get involved with a cause that they care about.
“I wish we didn’t have to do it this way, but the good side is that we have a lot of people active,” said Tamira Wyndham, 48 of the East Village. “My purpose here is to encourage people to do more than just attend protests, but also to get involved with an organization and work on specific things, whether they want to change a law or whatever they want to do.”
Wyndham stressed the need for protesters to go further than attending a demonstration.
“I think protests are really important, but I don’t think they’re enough by themselves,” Wyndham said. “A one-time protest is great, but it doesn’t do anything by itself. You have to keep the pressure. These are great, but there needs to be more.”
Amid loud chants of “Dump Trump”, protesters chatted excitedly with their neighbors. They complimented each other’s signs. They munched side by side on free vegan donuts being passed around.
“I think this woke something up in people, it got people off the couch and on the streets instead of complaining,” said Joy Lau, 32 of the East Village. “When I came here and saw that there are so many people actually protesting, putting in their time, standing in the cold, I see that we all need this support.”
Lau, among others, expressed the importance of carrying on widespread movements and protests like this one, in order to give people a new outlet for expressing themselves while remaining in solidarity with one another. This was not, in her view, sore losers commiserating but rather hopeful citizens showing strength.
“I don’t know if this is the new normal because it’s not normal at all,” Lau said.” I think it’s actually good that all of us came out in the first week. It’s like a frog being put in slowly boiling water. If this came out slowly, we might not notice it. We know that we have to take action. The feeling is that we have to do something right now.”
Lau’s urgency has been echoed across the country and will, in her view and in that of many, continue throughout the next four years as more people feel the need to let their voices be heard.