New Yorkers regain their voice as they protest Trump’s win
Massive protest by shocked Clinton supporters stops traffic and brings NYPD out in force
By midnight on Tuesday, as the imminent reality of a Donald Trump presidency began to sink in, an eerie silence descended on the usually cacophonous Times Square. Large crowds stood in muted shock as they watched the projected returns on the big screen, grasping the scale of this upset. New York, always so noisy and boisterous, was rendered suddenly quiet - even the typical soundtrack of honking car horns was absent.
For much of Wednesday, New Yorkers seemed to be in a daze, struggling with a defeat for Hillary Clinton that many took to be a repudiation of the qualities that make the city so vibrant - its diversity and tolerance.
It wasn’t until last night that the city appeared to find its voice once again, as a massive protest march worked its way from Union Square to Trump Tower, stopping traffic and shaking the streets.
Word had spread on Facebook and Twitter throughout the day, as a group called Socialist Alternative NYC organised a gathering at Union Square. However, at 5.30pm local time (10.30pm Irish time), with a heavy drizzle matching the grim mood of the city, the gathering appeared relatively modest, a few hundred young protesters with hastily scrawled signs - “Not my president”, “Love Trumps Hate”, “Bad Hombre” - that were getting soggy in the rain.
But as the chants of “Fuck Trump”, “Black Lives Matter” and “women’s rights are human rights” filled the square, the numbers continued to swell, until at about 7pm (12.30am Irish time) a crowd of several thousand began its march up Broadway and Fifth Avenue, bringing the rush-hour traffic grinding to a halt.
“We want everyone to know that we don’t support him,” said young Hillary Clinton voter Yuting. “This is not okay with us. This is not America. This is not what we stand for. I’m coming here for me, because I need to do something. I need to express myself somehow. Otherwise I would be at home crying.”
Yuting, who is Asian-American, was also attending to emphasise her refusal to bow down to fear. “After Trump became elected, I thought for a moment I should be scared, but then I realised I won’t give in, I’m not going to be scared. I’m going to be louder, I’m going to be angrier.”
Beyond being a collective cathartic howl of anger, what exactly could these protests achieve?
“I think this is just the beginning,” says Jackie, a community organiser from the Bronx. “Marches are good because they build power - if you look at the crowd a lot of these people are very young, perhaps college students. This is maybe the first time they are coming out for a protest. I think that’s really important. But I think the real key we need to remember is we need to organise. Because we are going to take a backlash, we’re going to seeing the Muslim communities under more attacks than they already are.
“We’re going to start seeing the cops being more militarised than they already are. So marches like this are great to get people involved. It’s like our first response. The important thing is we continue that, and we do it in our communities.”
“The global message we are trying to send is that love overcomes any hate. We want freedom, and we want that for everyone,” said Jeniel Terrero, who held a sign that read “Trump will not silence us”.
Huge numbers of NYPD officers lined various intersections, but largely offered a hands-off policing approach, with only a handful of arrests reported.
That reflected the tone of the crowd - more than happy to direct profane rebukes to Trump, but also respectful. As an act of mass public disorder, the atmosphere was decidedly convivial.
Most of the drivers stuck in the stalled traffic were enthusiastically sounding their car horns in support of the protest as marchers filed through the gridlock, and drenched tourists on open-top tour buses waved and smiled despite the inconvenience of being stuck in non-moving traffic.
In front of Trump Tower, thousands of protesters gathered in what by that point was a festival-like atmosphere, repeatedly chanting “Donald Trump is not my president”.
That chant, and many others, made calls for healing and unity seem hopelessly naive. Indeed, one of the most common chants of the evening, “A people united can never be defeated”, rings somewhat hollow when the election revealed the stark lack of unity in the US electorate.