BY PAUL SCHINDLER | In massive numbers, a diverse group of New Yorkers – women, men, children, many in families, of all ages and races – marched through Midtown Manhattan to express their concerns, anxieties, and anger about the tone and polices President Donald Trump brought to the White House with his inauguration on January 20.
“I watched the inauguration and it scared me,” said Charles Gould, a marcher who lives in Williamsburg. “We have to be active now more than ever.”
Gould said he been considering joining the January 21 Women’s March on New York City, but made up his mind for sure only after watching the new president’s swearing-in on Friday.
“The inauguration woke me up,” he said of Trump’s 16-minute speech widely viewed as “dark” in its “America First” tone. “I had been on the fence about coming today. He isn’t pulling back from his campaign style and then there was the executive order to pull back Obamacare.”
Lisa Blumbert of Chatham, New Jersey, on hand with a friend and neighbor, also referred to Trump’s behavior and rhetoric on his first day of office.
“We’re just so freaked out about what’s happening,” she said. “I was very disappointed by his speech yesterday. It was dark and mean-spirited.”
The march began at 10:30 a.m. at Second Avenue and 48th Street and proceeded south to 42nd Street before heading west. The crowd quickly filled the entirety of Second Avenue and then 42nd Street, with many people still in the streets after dark fell by 5 p.m., traveling north from 42nd Street on Fifth Avenue toward Trump Tower.
In a tweet, Mayor Bill de Blasio put the crowd size at 400,000. Rallies in cities nationwide and globally brought out enormous crowds in parallel Women’s Marches. The crowd size in Washington was estimated at half a million, and crowds of 250,000 turned out in both Chicago and Los Angeles. Marches took place in locations from London, Paris, and Berlin to Mexico City and Buenos Aires and from Cape Town to Sydney and even Antarctica.
There are always heated debates about crowd sizes when protests are involved, and in an extraordinary and bitter appearance in the White House press room early Saturday evening, Sean Spicer, Trump’s press secretary, lashed out at the media for what he said were inaccurate reports about the size of the crowd for the inauguration itself. Spicer, who took no questions, misstated Washington, DC, mass transit numbers for inauguration day, and also falsely claimed that Trump drew the largest swearing-in crowd in history – despite aerial photographs showing large empty areas in the space between the Capitol and the Washington Monument.
Trump himself used an appearance before CIA staffers on Saturday afternoon to talk about the enormous crowds at the inauguration and complain about the media’s efforts to minimize the turnout.
Spicer was correct in calling out a Time magazine reporter for an incorrect tweet that a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr., had been removed from the Oval Office, though that reporter had already apologized to the president, an apology Spicer had earlier accepted.
What was undisputed was that the new Trump team, in its first hours in office, deleted pages from the White House website on issues ranging from climate change to LGBTQ rights.
Though the calls for the marches in New York, Washington, and elsewhere initially focused on concerns about the threats the Trump presidency posed for women’s rights and health, including abortion access, marchers raised a full range of issues in their signs, their chants, and in comments to Gay City News.
Lara Tyson, an Upper West Sider who has taught in public schools for a decade and currently works in Harlem, held up a sign reading “Teachers against Betsy DeVos,” the president’s nominee for secretary of the Department of Education who has been a leading advocate for charter schools in her home state of Michigan.
“It’s ridiculous to hire a lobbyist against public money for public schools,” Tyson said. “She knows nothing about student loans or Pell grants. Charters have been a total failure in Michigan. They’re there to fake people into thinking there is choice. There is not oversight there.”
Others voiced a more generalized concern about the threats many communities in the US could face under Trump.
Ella Fine is a 13-year-old girl who was marching with her mother, Jocelyn.
“I think equal rights for everyone is so important and I don’t think our president agrees with that,” Ella said. “I think it’s important for us to fight for equality.”
Ella added she is “upset” by Trump assuming the presidency.
Pastor Astrid Storm leads St. James Episcopal Church in Scarsdale. She explained, “I’m here for the same reason most people are here – for women and for women’s rights.”
Storm said 12 people from her congregation had traveled from Westchester County to Midtown to participate, and were part of a group of roughly 100 people from nearby churches.
Melissa Faliveno, a young woman from Greenpoint, emphasized her solidarity with women across the nation.
“I don’t want to accept or condone misogyny or homophobia or xenophobia or racism,” she said. “I am marching for all the women in my life and their daughters and for those women who don’t feel safe marching today. And I am marching to resist.”
Joanna Leff, who lives in Crown Heights, carried a sign for Equality NY, a political action committee formed in 2016 to advance LGBTQ rights in the wake of the demise of the Empire State Pride Agenda, which had carried that mantle for more than 25 years.
“We’re all here for the same thing, to defend women’s rights and human rights and LGBT rights,” Leff said. “I am worried about how the next four years are going to go and how things are changing already.”
Comments from at least a few marchers suggested that concern within the LGBTQ community about what a Trump administration could herald is keeping some circumspect in their criticisms.
“We’re here to show our support for those who are under attack,” a Sunset Park man marching with his husband said. “Building unity and speaking out against injustice, tyranny.”
The man, however, declined to give his name.
“I work in the public domain,” he explained.
His husband identified himself as Joseph Canale.
A woman carrying a sign labeled with the logo of the Human Rights Campaign, the Washington-based LGBTQ lobby, and reading “Equality, Justice, Love Make America Great,” said, “We have to do something. We can’t just sit down and let this happen. Keep resisting. Keep fighting. Telling our legislators how we feel. Keep speaking up. I am very concerned about LGBTQ rights, about violence and hatred against all minorities.”
The woman, who lives in Westchester County, was marching with her young daughter and her mother, who was celebrating her 78th birthday on Saturday. Asked her name, the woman said, “I’d rather not.”
The spirited crowd alternated chants throughout the day, and addressed a variety of issues as they did so. “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Donald Trump has got to go” and “Donald Trump, go away, racist, sexist, anti-gay” were the most common refrains, but the crowd also chanted, “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here.” And in a reminder that many in the crowd have ambivalence about the prospect of Trump at some point over the next four years giving up his position, marchers also chanted, “Pence sucks, too.”