A few thousand demonstrators gathered and marched in New York City for four hours on Saturday afternoon to protest Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, in the process passing three of the Republican’s signature Manhattan skyscrapers.
The event was organized on Facebook by a group called Cosmopolitan Antifascists and backed by various immigrants’ rights groups and other activists. It began around noon near Trump Tower at Columbus Circle. An hour later, the participants began marching, snaking through Central Park and along 59th Street—past Trump’s luxury condominium complex—to reach Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. There, police barricades prevented the protesters from reaching the front door of the presidential hopeful’s headquarters, but they walked around the building and stood outside a side entrance.
Nathan Leigh, a resident of New York City, says the demonstration allows Americans to stand against the “overblown rhetoric” of Trump’s campaign.
“If we do nothing, say nothing, he could win,” Leigh tells Newsweek, adding that he sees a “newly emergent fascist movement” in the Republican front-runner’s supporters that must be stopped. He says he recognizes that many of Trump’s fans likely are fed up with establishment politics, and thus, he sees the need to bring attention to the candidate’s comments.
While protesters marched, many held signs and chanted, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Islamophobia has got to go,” “Get up, get down, immigrants built this town” and “The people united will never be defeated.” Many of their signs alluded to comments Trump has made since declaring his candidacy last June: “Build tolerance, not walls” and “Don’t let bigotry Trump our Constitution.” Other signs expressed some protesters’ overall discontent with the real estate tycoon: “IDK not Trump though” and “NYC is a no-Trump zone.”
One marcher, Emily Khoo, says residents of such a diverse area as New York City, where she lives, won’t tolerate Trump, who was born in the borough of Queens.
“We need more compassion and love in order to unify people instead of fear, and that’s what his campaign is all about,” Khoo says.
Another protester, Nadine Gorelik, also of New York, says the demonstration shows the power that Americans have when they unite in groups.
There was a heavy police presence along the streets and avenues in Manhattan. Overall, the hours-long event remained mostly peaceful, especially compared to the clash between demonstrators and Trump’s supporters in Chicago last weekend. But one protester, Harrison, who asked that his last name not be published, tells Newsweek he was pepper-sprayed by a New York City Police Department (NYPD) officer during the march while he was trying to help another participant stand up from the ground.
“The protesters at this point were not being physical. It really seemed like the police were instigating,” he says. “As we were lifting this person up, I was pepper-sprayed to my left... I wasn’t in any officer’s face. They just maced me on the side.”
An NYPD public information officer couldn’t be reached before publication of this article. At least two protesters were arrested when they tried to break through a police barricade during a rally later at Columbus Circle, according to the Associated Press.
Since he declared his bid for the presidency, Trump has repeatedly said he wants to build a wall at the southern border of the country to thwart immigration and to implement a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States—to keep out “rapists” and criminals.
“The comments offended me because I am not a drug dealer, I am not a rapist. I’m a Mexican author,” says protester Malu Huacuja, adding that she has lived in the United States for more than 15 years but originally is from Mexico. “He is fostering stupidity.”
Khoo says Americans are living in dangerous times. “Trump is perpetuating hatred, violence, Islamophobia,” she says. “This is not what our country stands for.”
Meanwhile, a similar scene played out thousands of miles away in Arizona, but with more conflict than in New York City. There, protesters shut down a highway leading to a Trump rally in Fountain Hills, leaving hundreds of cars stuck on Shea Boulevard or to drive into oncoming traffic to get around the barricade.
Sheriff’s officials began towing the cars just as the 11 a.m. rally began, but traffic was backed up for miles. Protesters stood in front of the cars chanting, “Who’s streets? Our streets!” and holding banners that read, “Shut down Trump.” Several protesters cabled themselves to their cars to keep them from being towed, but were arrested.
Winston Ross contributed reporting.