Thousands gathered at 59th Street – Columbus Circle on Friday afternoon to march in protest of the Republican presidential candidate, Donald J. Trump. The protesters included undocumented citizens, many young political activists, Muslim refugees and even Brooklyn College students and adjunct professors.
The fired up crowd brought with them reporters from almost every major news station and hundreds of NYPD officers, including teams of the Disorder Control Unit and Strategic Response Group, who marched with protesters to ensure safety.
“I think this all connects to students on campuses across New York City,” said Daphna Thi, a history major. “Like when the NYPD was surveilling students on campus. This general climate of fear is affecting students that go to these campuses.”
The rally, organized by the Cosmopolitan Antifascist Group, began with speakers and sign-holders chanting anti-Trump rhymes. One sign read, “First they came for the Mexicans and I did not speak because I was not Mexican. Then they came for the Muslims and I did not speak because I am not Muslim. And when they came for me, there was no-one left to speak.”
Among those speakers were activists from several political groups, like Ice-Free NYC and the American Arab Association of New York.
“I am an illegal immigrant,” said Ella, an undocumented immigrant. “My body is illegal. But I will not stay silent, because racism was alive before Trump and we need to recognize that.”
The rally took place directly underneath Trump International Hotel, giving the contrast needed for the protesters to aim their discontent.
“This racist mindset has always manifested itself on bodies like mine,” said Pyra Hygaard, a refugee from Lebanon. “The difference now is that these manifestations now have a face. I am still living in fear, both on a personal and political level, especially as an Arab-refugee woman.”
Brooklyn College and other CUNY campuses have groups looking to combat the Trump-rhetoric that has been sweeping across America, but are still looking for solidarity amongst themselves.
“Brooklyn College is full of working-class students and there is a big class question raised about where Trump is trying to appeal general popular discontent,” said Thi. “A student movement could be especially strong and could combat anything from tuition hikes to Islamophobia.”
At around 1 p.m., the protesters began their march to Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, waving their signs and chanting “If he says, New York. We say, values” and “Donald Trump, go away. Racist, sexist, anti-gay.”
Police escorts lined the street’s curb, equipped with some riot gear, strap-ties and a loudspeaker replaying the automated message, “If you disrupt the flow of pedestrian traffic, you are subject to arrest. Please remain on the sidewalk.”
The march paused for sometime directly under Trump’s building, while store owners locked their doors of neighboring buildings until the masses turned around and proceeded to march back to Columbus Circle, concluding their demonstration, with a demeanor more celebratory of their unity, rather than theanger toward Trump. The peaceful protest ended around 4 p.m. with only two arrests made for people standing in the way of traffic.
“In a campus like ours that is so working class, we’re feeling this downward pressure more than an elite school,” said Thi. “We’re going to leave Brooklyn College and then what? Are our prospects better than working a minimum-wage job? There’s a question of fighting for our future.”