Hundreds of New Yorkers gathered in Washington Square Park on Friday afternoon as part of a nationwide general strike in opposition to the Trump administration. The rally, one of hundreds of strike events taking place across the country, was meant to show solidarity with other workers, while also providing a forum for New Yorkers to begin organizing against Trump’s anti-labor policies, according to organizers.
At 1:00 p.m., protesters convened at the Garibaldi statue on the eastern side of the park, and quickly began chants of “No ban/no wall” and “All nations/every race/punch a Nazi in the face.” American flags and socialist red flags waved side-by-side, along with signs expressing support for immigrants, women, and the working class.
Some in the crowd had taken off from work or school for the occasion, like Emilio Rodriguez, 46, an attorney from Westchester. “I told [the practice] yesterday that I was coming to the rally and I wasn't going to be going in,” said Rodriguez, adding that he’d never before attended a protest, but was galvanized by his wife’s participation in the Women’s March. “The president is trying to overexert the power of the executive branch, and as an attorney I really believe in defending the constitution, the independent judiciary.”
Others in attendance were not on strike themselves, but said they were there to represent those unable to take off work. “We're in a state where a lot of people cannot afford to [strike], which is great for capitalism,” said Dana Francisco, 30, a freelancer from Brooklyn and member of the Freedom Socialist Party. Francisco spoke about the importance of connecting workers' rights with the struggles of other marginalized groups. “I think that anti-capitalist ideologies are starting to grow, and I think as that grows, people really start to see the umbrella it's above nicks off a lot of other issues.”
At 1:35 p.m., organizer Andrew Thornebrooke delivered a speech outlining the importance of building a network of activists that could quickly activate for planned actions in the future. In addition to yesterday’s Day Without Immigrants labor protest, another nationwide strike will take place on March 8th, this one coordinated by the organizers of the Women’s March. Though a planned speaking program was scheduled to take place after Thornebrooke’s speech, that did not happen, and those in attendance soon returned to their anti-Trump chanting.
Barry Denny, a 75-year-old poet from Stuy-Town, said that Friday’s strike seemed a bit premature, noting that the action was a far cry from the five-week labor stoppage he participated in while working for the New York State Welfare Commission in the 1950s. Denny also said that it was clear to him that labor rights were threatened under a Trump administration, particularly in the face of the “very sad deterioration of unions.”
“But I also see virtually every issue at a greater risk under the Trump administration,” Denny added. “I actually see the possibility of, not a classic fascist state, but an authoritarian state. I think it's a real possibility, and that's partly why I'm here.”
With Scott Heins