Tens of Thousands of New Yorkers Vow to Build 'Wall Against Hate'
"As bad as you think it's going to be, it's going to be worse," filmmaker Michael Moore said. "The good news is there are more of us than there are of them."
Kicking off a weekend of disruptions and marches protesting the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump, an estimated 25,000 people rallied outside of Trump International Hotel in the president-elect's hometown of Manhattan on Thursday evening to send the message that New Yorkers will not roll over and permit attacks on immigrants, minorities, or the environment.
"We're about to have a new president, but New York's values don't change," New York City mayor Bill de Blasio told the crowd assembled in Columbus Circle. "We will work with the incoming administration when we can and fight any attempts to reinstitute stop and frisk, create a Muslim registry, strip New Yorkers of their healthcare or change who we are as a city. We will respond to any challenge. This election was not an end, it is a beginning."
Actor Alec Baldwin, who was among the luminaries attending the demonstration, did a brief impersonation of the president-elect (a la his notorious "Saturday Night Live" skits) before tearing down Trump and his cabinet picks. "These people are a disgrace, but there is hope," he said. "Trump and Pence think you're going to lay down. That's one thing about New Yorkers: You don't lay down."
The We Stand United rally was organized by a diverse coalition of organizations, including MoveOn.org, Families USA, Greenpeace U.S., New York Communities for Change, Make the Road New York, Planned Parenthood of New York City, Food and Water Watch, and the New York State Nurses Association, and marked the beginning of 100 days of actions around the country targeting the new administration.
At the rally, de Blasio announced that mayors from across the country had signed a pledge to "take action and enact policies that will protect diversity, reduce our carbon footprint, and protect healthcare coverage," organizers said.
The New York City mayor has been at the forefront of a movement of local officials who since the presidential election have vowed to protect progressive ideals of open borders, human rights, and environmental stewardship despite efforts by Trump and the Republican Congress.
"On the eve of Donald Trump being sworn in as president, our job to offer a real alternative vision and continue the work of the political revolution in the face of a divided nation has never been more important," said Shannon Jackson, executive director of the Sen. Bernie Sanders-inspired political organization Our Revolution. "Our Revolution will stand together with our allies in defense of attacks on the rights of the working class, immigrants, people of color, indigenous nations, LGBTQ communities and religious minorities. When we come together, and we must; there is nothing we cannot accomplish."
"We're at a very dangerous moment in history," filmmaker Michael Moore—who helped organize Thursday's protest and will speak at the DisruptJ20 event in Washington, D.C., on Friday afternoon—warned the crowd. "As bad as you think it's going to be, it's going to be worse. The good news is there are more of us than there are of them."
Actor and environmentalist Mark Ruffalo struck a more hopeful note, according to the Hollywood Reporter. "Man, I needed this. Did you need this?" he said, reportedly to a chorus of cheers. "We're coming here tonight to protect something precious to us, and that's each other."
Other celebrities in attendance included Robert De Niro, Sally Field, Rosie Perez, Marisa Tomei, Cher, Julianne Moore, Cynthia Nixon, Natalie Merchant, and Shailene Woodley, as well as civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton.
Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said that her organization wants "to send the message loud and clear to the new administration that we will fight back with every peaceful tool available to protect the fundamental rights and liberties that are the core of our democracy and we will work tirelessly to build a New York wall against hate."
Below is a video featuring clips of some of the evening's speeches. A full recording can be viewed here.