Hundreds of New Yorkers braved freezing temperatures Tuesday night on Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza at a rally calling upon U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to take a firm stand against the Trump administration.
The rally was the latest in a series of weekly gatherings poetically dubbed "What the F*ck, Chuck?" outside the senator's Brooklyn home on Prospect Park West and his offices in Midtown.
As a series of speakers stood on a platform and shouted over a mobile PA system, protesters cheered and jeered as they held signs with slogans like "Buck Up Chuck"; "Resisting Trump Is Your Primary Duty"; and "Filibuster Filibuster Filibuster."
Hae-Lin Choi, of the Democratic Socialists of America and Resist Trump NY, took the stage first, announcing herself as an immigrant and telling the crowd why organizers had called for the protest.
"We planned this rally to Schumer's home to help him find the spine and maybe some of the other body parts he needs to grow," she said, citing Schumer's early "yea" votes on Trump's nominees to lead Defense, Homeland Security, and the Central Intelligence Agency. Choi said organizers were encouraged by Schumer's announcement in recent days that he would vote no on eight more nominees, but that they see this as a bare minimum—and they intend to keep up the pressure.
"Senator Schumer must be bold and stand with the working class," she cried over the loudspeaker. "He has to champion the resistance or get out of the way and we'll find someone that will."
As Choi spoke, the crowd chanted, "Stand up, or get out of the way."
That was the common theme running through the speeches—meet our demands or you will feel our wrath at the ballot box.
Paulina Davis, vice chair of the organization National Women's Liberation and a member of its Women of Color Caucus, blasted President Donald Trump's nomination of Georgia Congressman Tom Price, a hard-right opponent of reproductive rights, to be secretary of Health and Human Services. "They would rather see women die from a lack of healthcare if it means they can block our access to birth control and abortion," she said of the Trump administration.
Davis issued a warning to Senate Democrats considering supporting what she called Trump's "anti-woman, anti-abortion, profit-over-people" nominees.
"If you don't ensure that we put up a big fight," she said, "we will replace you with someone who will.
Park Slope resident Francesca Valerio, who stood not far from the gas generator for the PA that kicked choking fumes upon a brave swath of the crowd, said she didn't have much experience with political activism, but that Trump's election had brought her out into the streets. "I just think what's going on is appalling on every level," she said. "I feel like I can't stay home."
Like many in the crowd who spoke to Gothamist, her feelings for Schumer seemed a bit softer than the speakers'. "I'm pretty happy with Chuck," she said. "But I want him to do everything he can."
Also represented at the rally were speakers from the grassroots Muslim group MPower Change, SEIU Local 32BJ, the Communication Workers of America, and New York Communities for Change.
Patrick Youngkin, a member of CWA Local 1102 and a former Marine, shouted gleefully, bringing the crowd to a fury.
"I fought for the right to protest, I fought for the right to assemble, and hold elected officials accountable," he said. "Senator Schumer, your constituents, we're going to take this fight to the street. But it's your duty as Senate minority leader to take this fight to the floor."
After an hour or so of speeches, organizers directed protesters to march the few hundred feet from Grand Army Plaza to the area on Prospect Park West across from Schumer's apartment building. (Only 50 people were allowed to actually stand in front of the building.)
The crowd chanted the usual protest fare—"This is what democracy looks like"—but also more pointed messages, like "What the fuck, Chuck?" and "Grow a spine." A man looked out his window from Schumer's building, then slammed it shut. Two kids peered out at the crowd.
Angelo Roefaro, a spokesperson for Schumer, explained in an email to Gothamist that the senator has been working to oppose Trump.
"From day one, Senator Schumer made it very clear that he had major concerns with at least eight of the nominees in what he termed the 'swamp cabinet' of billionaires and bankers," he wrote. "He fought off the Republican effort to bum rush this group through the Senate in one fell swoop, and instead forced a series of hearings to more fully question them and examine their records and their conflicts of interest."
Around the corner from Schumer's house, Gothamist rang the bell of a townhouse, curious if the noise was irritating the locals. Peter Gallo, 77, a retired marketing executive originally from Germany, answered the door, his young grandson racing around.
Gallo said the protests were not disturbing him. "It should be louder," Gallo said. "We should have a demonstration every day."