Moments after Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, seven protesters, led by Councilmember Jumaane Williams, were arrested for obstructing traffic at the intersection of 5th Avenue and 56th Street outside of Trump Tower. Williams, sporting a knit cap and Bernie Sanders pin, was flanked by his tearful mother Patricia Williams, along with Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, State Senator Marisol Alcantara, and Kirsten John Foy of the National Action Network, all of whom were also arrested.
The planned act of civil disobedience followed a press conference at the same location, during which elected officials and community leaders offered thoughts on the theme of “resist from day one.”
“We want to make sure that folks are empowered to disrupt a system that is unjust,” Williams said. “We want to make sure we're out there in the streets in the spirit of Dr. King, that we are actively going to resist.”
Williams specifically touched on the danger of Trump’s Cabinet nominees, as well as his stated proposals to remove the Affordable Care Act; create a Muslim registry; build a border wall; and spread the practice of Stop, Question, and Frisk throughout the country. He noted that Trump lost the vote in his home town of New York City by upward of 1.5 million votes.
At one point, just prior to the arrest, a pro-Trump protester interrupted Williams's speech with chants of “Be a patriot!”
“This is the most patriotic thing we can be doing,” Williams responded.
Following the frenzy of arrests, a hundred or so gathered demonstrators verbally clashed with a handful of Trump supporters. “America has never been great for people of color,” said Lae Murphy, a Dominican immigrant who has lived in New York since the 1970s, to a man wearing a Make America Great Again hat. “Look what’s happening in North Dakota, look what the police department is doing here.”
“He won fair and square,” said Asa Lowe, a Brooklyn native. He added that the protests were becoming tedious and that “people are just jealous because a rich businessman is now running the country.”
Others in the crowd concentrated on uniting the two factions. Bill Johnson, a Staten Island native, said that he hoped to reach a common ground with his Trump-supporting neighbors—a “challenging goal,” to be sure, but one he’s invested many hours in since the election. Johnson’s biggest concern, he said, is that “we have pretty much been oblivious to the demands of democracy, meaning getting involved at the local level.”
If you’re looking for ways to get involved this weekend—through resistance, reconciliation, or philanthropic drinking—we’ve got a running list for you here.