President Donald Trump returned home late in the evening on Monday — his first visit since being inaugurated — to a not so warm welcome.
Several thousand people waited to greet the president outside his Trump Tower residence on Fifth Avenue chanting, “Not my president” and “Shame,” shame,” shame.” The president’s motorcade came from a different direction, bypassing the enormous crowd.
Sanitation dump trucks lined the entrance to the building and police erected hundreds of yards of metal barricades to contain protestors. Many demonstrators brought along signs that read “the White House is no place for white supremacy,” “Trump loves hate,” and other placards voicing resistance to this past weekend’s Nazi visibility in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Thousands turn out Monday amidst president’s nuclear war, Nazi-sympathizing outrages
The racial tensions that erupted in Charlottesville — and led to the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, killed when a vehicle driven by a neo-Nazi plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters — joined with alarm over the president’s tough rhetoric last week suggesting war with North Korea spurred demonstrators to spend more than four hours boisterously giving Trump a thumb’s down on his homecoming.
Hawk Newsome, president of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, was among the counter-protesters in Charlottesville and described what he encountered there.
“It was war… people throwing rocks at us, hitting us with pipes and sticks, and the police just standing there, doing nothing to separate or even help the group being attacked,” he said. “It was absolutely horrifying.”
At the entrance to Central Park, a number of people dressed all in black held a mock funeral procession to mourn Heyer’s death. Twenty-year-old James Alex Fields, Jr., was arraigned on a second-degree murder charge, among others, in Virginia on Tuesday.
“He is not doing anything to judge the supremacist that started the violence or even bring some solace to the Heyer family caused by this senseless attack,” Allison Vandeven, a 22-year-old Queens College student, said of the president.
Another group of protestors, Rise and Resist, which took the lead in organizing the Monday protest, showed their displeasure by singing and clapping along to “Nasty Neo-Nazi,” to the tune of “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” and “Goodbye Donny,” adapted from “Hello Dolly.” The group drew attention not only to Trump’s failure to unambiguously denounce the racism displayed in Charlottesville, but also his tweets saying the American military is “locked and loaded” should North Korea act unwisely.
Rise and Resist is a direct action group that emerged after Trump’s surprise election last year.
“In the wake of all this dangerous saber-rattling by the Republican Party, I feel it’s my duty to march and demand the hostile threats of war stop now,” said Maryellen Novak, a Manhattanite and Rise and Resist co-organizer of Monday’s protest. “We are here to demonstrate a force of peace and love.”
Rise and Resist had held an earlier demonstration outside Trump Tower on Sunday evening.
On Monday, roughly 1,500 demonstrators spanning two Midtown blocks marched from the main branch of the New York Public Library on 42nd Street toward Trump Tower at 56th Street — though via Sixth Avenue — with a “No War” banner carried by those on the front lines. Their “No War, No Hate” signs served to deliver two messages at once: the demand that talk of nuclear war be deescalated immediately and that the administration become proactive in challenging racism in the US.
Shouts of “Black and trans lives matter” echoed against window panes on the Sixth Avenue towers, and the procession stopped briefly near the Fox News headquarters, where protesters shouted, “No hate, no bigotry, no more white supremacy.”
The well-publicized welcome home protest was attended by many with no affiliation to any specific group. Brooklynite Sean Collins carried a sign saying, “White silence equals death.”
He explained, “Despite the advice of family members, I came out to make my voice heard. It’s up to white people in this country to stand up for injustices done to other groups of people. We have to come together to take up one common cause.”
The scene was not devoid of the president’s supporters, with about two dozen of them stationed two blocks away from Trump Tower chanting, “God bless President Trump.” They carried American flags and signs that read, “Now is not the time for divisiveness.”
“I’m here to support the man I voted for and will change this country, making it great again,” said Heshy Freedman, a Manhattan resident who is part of the group Jews for Trump.
Freedman said he supports the president because he believes he will change the composition of the Supreme Court to make it more conservative, lend more support to Israel, and talk tough to countries like North Korea that threaten American freedom and security.
Though protesters on both sides briefly skirmished, police quickly pinned each group behind barricades, as those in support of Trump continued yelling, “God bless President Trump,” and the other side shouted back, “Go home Nazi, go home.”
The protest was largely peaceful, though at one instance a Trump supporter was hit by a bottle of water. Police tried to chase the attacker but he disappeared into the crowd.
According to police, three people were arrested.
“We are at a crossroads of time,” said Barry Zable, a performance artist and activist. “War costs the earth. It’s time for people to raise their consciousness, pursue peace and mitigation no matter what side you’re on.”