Activism

NYC Stands Up to Trump

A report from the front lines of New York's anti-Trump protest.

Denouncing Donald Trump, hundreds of protesters marched through midtown Manhattan on Saturday, a show of force by wide range of activists against the Republican presidential candidate, and likely nominee, who they say encourages acts of racist violence.

The demonstration was one of the first to specifically oppose Trump. The crowd was composed mostly of young people, but older activists also turned up to oppose the GOP front-runner.

“This is just a test run!” a protester called out from atop a statue in Columbus Circle, where the marchers gathered at noon beneath the Trump International Hotel and Tower.

“When Donald Trump comes to New York City, we’re going to shut that shit down,” the young man  added, to loud applause.

The demonstration comes amid national alarm at the physical violence that has marred Trump’s massive rallies, with protesters challenging a message they feel is hateful, dangerous and directed at them -- especially people of color and muslims, who’ve report enduring abuse by Trump’s ardent fans. Some Trumpists sport Nazi tattoos, and have ties to White Supremacists groups who have found validation in Trump’s villainizing of minorities.

Saturday’s rally and march also marks one of the first times demonstrators have gathered  to oppose Trump on the streets of New York City, where the real-estate mogul and billionaire son of a millionaire owns several tall buildings.

“I hope we get through to Trump that he’s a racist. He’s a liar. Everything he says is a lie. It’s not good for the country,” said Janet Frier, from New York, who came with two friends.

The women remember a time when nuclear war was on the minds of American voters. The United States still maintains an arsenal of 7,000 nuclear weapons, and they don’t think Trump has the temperament for such an apocalyptic responsibility.

“I feel very afraid,” said Janice Caban, also from New York. “I don’t think Trump has control over his emotions. He gets very angry. I don’t want him to get angry and have his finger on the button.”

The demonstrators, like many social justice events in New York City, representated a wide range of causes, and the chants reflected this.

“Border walls are a crime/From Mexico to Palestine!” Went one chant, referring to Israel’s “security barrier” --- known by opponents as the “Apartheid Wall”--- between Israel and the West Bank, which the Israeli military occupies. Trump has fired up his crowds with promises of building a large wall between the United States and Mexico, which he insists Mexico will pay for.

The demonstrators curled around midtown Manhattan from Columbus Circle to Trump Tower, at 56th and 5th Avenue, and then back to the circle. Hundreds of police were on hand, but there were no mass arrests.

Two pro-Trump protesters stood outside the Trump Tower and they exchanged jeers with the demonstrators, who made a sing-a-long out of the hit single by Nicholas Fraser “Why You Always Lyin?”

“My name is George Overbeck and I’m from West Hampton Long Island and I’m voting for Donald Trump!” Said the man, carrying a Trump sign. “These people are being paid to protest! Vote for Donald.”

There were no mass arrests, but police hit at least one protester in the eye with pepper spray as marchers tumbled over each other trying to get across Central Park South.

Harrison Knowles, 24, from New York, got a dose of pepper spray in his left eye. He said it happened as he was trying to help a protester who fell.

“As I was picking up the guy, who was about to get trampled, I felt pepper spray hit me,” Harrison, who was wearing a “Fuck it, I guess I’m a Democratic Socialist” shirt.

“I can’t stress enough how the officers were using excessive force,” Harrison, who was not arrested or detained, added.

Veterans also showed up to voice their views on Trump. They say that Trump’s hailing his promises to “take care” of veterans, as he says, amounts to exploiting them.

“We’re folks who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he’s treating us as props for his agenda of hate,” said Matt Howard, spokesman for Vets against Hate. Howard is a Marine veteran who served between 2004 and 2005 in Iraq.

One of the purposes of Vets Vs Hate, Howard said, was to counter Trump’s virulent anti-Muslim message, proposing the tracking of Muslim Americans, the closure of mosques and a ban on Muslims entering the United States.

“We stand with our muslim brothers and sisters, we served with them and developed close friendships,” Howard said. “If Trump gets his way, their lives will become much more difficult.”

Although Trump has rejected the idea that his calls to “punch out” protesters have contributed to his fans punching protesters, Howard placed blame squarely on Trump’s shoulders.

“I think that anytime you have a platform the way Donald Trump does and you use it to spread Islamophobia and Latinos and women, you are really implicating yourself in the violence we’ve seen, and the rise of White Supremicist groups and violence against Muslims, against Latinos,” Howard added. “It’s scary because it emboldens people who are already fearful.”

Wilson Dizard is a freelance reporter and photographer whose work has appeared at Al Jazeera America and the New York Post.

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