Garbage trucks surround Trump Tower. Perfect. Getty Images
Every Friday since our calamitous election, in the gaudy, cavernous, brass-and-marble lobby of the singularly narcissistic “Ultimate Residential Building Worldwide” - Trump cafe, Trump gift shop, Trump buffet, Trump crap - Jeff Bergman has joined the gawkers, 1%ers, selfie-takers, armed cops and Secret Service guys checking bags for his own act of rebellion, a "sustained, non-violent resistance” in the form of an improbable weekly teach-in he calls Learn as Protest. An art dealer from Westchester County who works a block from Trump Tower, Bergman walks there each Friday at lunchtime to read aloud from a stellar roster of authors - Orwell, Neruda, Yates, Zinn, Camus, Malcolm X - exploring issues of power and justice. At the start of the sordid reign of "a president who hates words," he says, "it felt subversive to stand here and hold a book.” Today, with protesters largely replaced by scowling law enforcement, “it still feels like contested space...(But) I knew it was my right to be in here, and I wanted to use his space against him."
Over the months, Bergman has been joined by fellow-travelers offering their own resistance readings. They are part of a small group of protesters who continue to use what are legally designated public spacesElie Wiesel, Emma Goldman, Langston Hughes, Toni Morrison, T.S. Eliot, Rachel Carson, Hanna Arendt, Vaclev Havel, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gil Scott-Heron. On Friday, for his final reading of 2017, he chose an excerpt from Rebecca Solnit's Hope in the Dark, because we need it.
“Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency. To hope is to give yourself to the future - and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.”
Fifth floor climate teach-in. Courtesy Emma Stieglitz