On Saturday March 19th, thousands of Americans gathered in front of Trump Towers to protest the Republican front-runner’s increasingly racist, sexist, and xenophobic sentiments.
The organizers of the event, the New York City Anti-Fascists, described the event as “the first of many demonstrations and actions against Donald Trump from our friends, Cosmopolitan Anti-Fascists”
On the Facebook event page, the Cosmopolitan Anti-Fascists explained that “Donald J. Trump has made headlines in recent months with his divisive rhetoric, hate speech, and extremist plans to “make America great again”. We, in fact, believe this will do the opposite to this nation. Trump’s policies threaten many of us in the Black, Latino, LGBTQIA+, Muslim, and other communities. These policies and type of speech has no place in this country, and certainly does not have a place in the city that Trump grew his empire in–a city known as a melting pot and home for many of the same people Trump continues to wage war on. Join us at Columbus Circle as we march to Trump Tower and say NO to hate, NO to divisiveness, NO to fascist policies, and most importantly, NO to Donald J. Trump.”
On the event page, sixteen thousand members indicated their interest to attend, but, according to the International Business Times, a little over a thousand showed up the event with larger crowds joining the festivities in the afternoon.
Sponsored by many groups, including the Cosmopolitan Anti-Fascists, [Immigration and Customs Enforcement]-Free NYC, and the People’s Power Assemblies, the protest drew thousands of Americans of all ages, races, and backgrounds to collectively protest the Republican front-runner’s statements, including his comments that Mexicans are “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists”
Carrying signs that included statements, like “Deport Trump” and “Build friendship; not walls,” protesters marched to different Trump establishments along Fifth Avenue to show their discontent with the Republican front-runner’s statements.
Bard College senior, Brian Strigel, explains that he participated in Saturday’s rally because, “[Donald] Trump represents the hatred some Americans feel today towards immigration, the economy, and ambiguity about where we stand in history. Trump channels that frustration towards minorities, and his followers take his rhetoric seriously. Everyone at the protest gathered to say that this sort of scapegoating is unacceptable and is actually tearing at the fabric of our social structure.”
Meghan Holiday, a protester from Westchester County, who brought her 7-month-old-daughter to the protest, explained that she went because “I [wanted to] personally say I am against Donald trump’s rhetoric. I am against his hate speech. He has been blatantly racist and misogynistic and xenophobic and, up until recently, that was all protected by the First Amendment. As much as I disliked what he said, he has that right. I feel, at this point, he has gone past that now. He has started to incite violence. He has made many comments about wanting to punch people in the face and how people should be roughed up and how he will pay legal fees of those who commit acts of violence. As we saw in North Carolina, people are taking him up on his offers. As cliche as it sounds, he is using his power for evil and not good. As human beings, we can’t stand by and allow him to instigate and cause violence. He truly brings out the monsters on all sides. I fear what will happen if he becomes President. I fear his way of handling situations when it comes to foreign affairs if this is how he handles protesters.”
Veteran, David B., from Washington Heights, explains that he attended because he finds Donald Trump to be “anti-American and repugnant,” and that both of his grandfathers fought in World War II against “a guy that talks like Trump.”
David B., who served in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2012, stated that, as a veteran, he took “an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies: foreign and domestic. . . and [he sees] Trump as a domestic enemy, and the things that make America great are the things Trump stands against: diversity, progress, and freedom.”
Majida Is-Alaoui, who came to the United States from Morocco sixteen years ago, explained, “I went to the the rally against Trump because I’m against everything he stands for. This man represents a danger to the United States. It was important for me to attend, and join many others protesters to demonstrate [sic] my position against him.”
Yet, the event attracted more than just protesters, as a considerable number of counter-protesters came to “stand up to injustice and lies and propaganda perpetrated by countless anti Trump forces”
In fact, one counter-protester, who wished to only be identified as Ari, explained that he attended the Anti-Trump Rally because “It’s extremely important to stand up for what’s right, and I feel it’s important to make a stand. A stand against the protestors and mainstream media that vilify Donald Trump in their attempt to smear him from winning the nomination and presidency. The far left protestors, who are funded at the top by George Soros, are doing everything in their power to discredit Trump but it’s not working. He is scaring the establishment to death. The people of America are not buying what they’re selling anymore. We are well on our way to nominating and electing Mr. Trump to the White House.”
In order to keep the peace, the New York Police Department deployed hundreds of officers, who shadowed the protesters and reminded them of their rights. With a loud speaker in tow, protesters repeatedly heard NYPD announcements that reminded them to stay on the sidewalks and refrain from blocking pedestrian paths.
While many, like Strigel, claim that the police presence was necessary to maintain order, some protesters actually went head-to-head with the police, which resulted in a few arrests and pepper spraying.
According to protesters, like Meghan Holiday, “[The cops were] the first thing I noticed. . . then I noticed as the day the anti terrorism task force came and had zip ties ready. A lot I noticed were smiling and joking and engaging with the protesters in a friendly way. I had many come up to me and make sure me and my [7-month-old] daughter were okay. But then again, I am a white female; I can’t speak for how it was for others. I did see a few [police officers] get loud for protestors stepping off the curb and walking in the street to get around poles and such”
Holiday expressed further discontent with police actions by saying, “I am super disappointed that They were using pepper spray on the crowd. From what I gathered they were fairly loose with it and there were lots of kids and babies there. Like, what if that got in a child or baby’s eye or mouth or anywhere? My daughter is seven-months-old. I met a couple with a nine-month-old and another woman with a six-month-old and saw a few other infants.”
According to protester, Majida Is-Alaoui, who witnessed one of the arrests, the brief altercation with the police did not stop them. The protester explained, “I was in the middle of the crowd when the police arrested a young protester, I was afraid it will turn bad; yet I didn’t back up. In my mind I was standing for what’s right so I didn’t care much.”
Veteran, David B., who encountered one of the altercations, described it as “a Trump supporter [trying] to attack a group of protesters.”
When asked for more details, B. explained that he made it a point to not engage with Trump supporters, but was thankful that the young Trump supporter was quickly restrained by the NYPD before causing more harm.
Yet, despite the few arrests, many, including the organizers, expressed their satisfaction with the protests.
In fact, in an official statement, the Anti-Fascists said, “The Cosmopolitan AFA front would like to thank every single person in attendance today. We WON on the streets as well as in the minds of those in opposition to our main cause. A SPECIAL THANKS TO ALL of the organizing groups that were in attendance as well, if it wasn’t for their leadership and conscious deliberation all of this would have not been possible. There were three arrests at the protest today after the police department became aggressive and attacked us. We are happy to inform that all three of those who were arrested are already out and with dismissed charges. We stand with them in support and we are very excited to hear the news of their legal deliberation.”
At the event, the Cosmopolitan Anti-Fascists and other organizing groups indicated that this would be the first of many protests in New York City; however, we can only watch to see if the New York City protests will translate to low numbers for Trump in the New York State Primary on April 18th.