Labor Activists Arrested at Trump Tower

  • Police and building officials outside Trump Tower Aug. 31 during a protest staged by Movimiento Cosecha (Harvest Movement). (Photos by Julius Motal for Voices of NY)
Trump Tower was built, in part, by immigrant labor. That’s the claim made by members of Movimiento Cosecha (Harvest Movement), a relatively new organization whose mission is to make the American public aware of how integral immigrant labor is to American society.

On Aug. 31, in an effort to highlight what they say is the role undocumented workers had in building Trump Tower at 57th St. and Fifth Ave., eight protesters made entry impossible at the building’s Fifth Ave. entrance. Four chained themselves together with a metal chain and padlocks in front of a double door, while two protesters positioned themselves inside each of the revolving doors on both sides.

The demonstration coincided with Trump’s meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico on Wednesday, a surprise turn for the Republican candidate who’s spent the entirety of his presidential bid ridiculing Mexico and its people. Of late, Trump has wavered on illegal immigration, going so far as to say that under his plan illegal immigrants will have to pay taxes. He did not, however, go so far as to advocate for amnesty.

Members of Movimiento Cosecha, however, remain unconvinced by Trump’s meeting with President Nieto.

“The racist message is out there,” said Thaís Marques, a 21-year-old student at Rutgers. “His supporters are not moving away from that.”

Movimiento Cosecha is the latest group whose goal is to get protection for the 11 million undocumented people currently in the United States. Their efforts, however, are aimed at swaying public opinion rather than the top brass in Washington. Efforts by the Obama Administration have been too slow, members claim, and so they’re looking to galvanize the public by showing them how much undocumented workers have done for the US.

Members of the movement have been involved in previous causes, though they’ve found a renewed sense of purpose in Cosecha.

“After DACA failed, I needed a change,” said Maria Cabello, referring to the Supreme Court’s failure to reverse the blockage of President Obama’s November 2014 order to expand immigration relief.

In 2012, the administration had brought some immigration relief through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which provides protection to undocumented individuals who came to the US before they turned 16. But its expansion, and the addition of another program for parents of childhood arrivals that together would have provided relief to 5 million immigrants, were derailed in federal court.

Cabello was one of eight Cosecha members who positioned themselves outside of Trump Tower. Police stood guard as they and building officials tried to determine what to do with them.

A smattering of Trump supporters showed up to both campaign for their candidate and oppose Cosecha.

When Cosecha members switched to Spanish, one Trump supporter alternated between “Speak English!” and “Vote for Trump!” Another was unconvinced by Cosecha’s key point that Trump hired undocumented workers to build his eponymous building on 5th Avenue.

“Of course that’s bullshit,” said Jim MacDonald as the protest wound down. “Are they really so naive that they think the people who pour the concrete are sneaking into the country?”

Throughout the protest, MacDonald alternated between holding signs that read “BUILD THE WALL” and “DEPORT ILLEGAL ALIENS.” He chanted “Build the wall!” and “Vote for Trump!”  as people walked by.

The protest came to an end when members of the NYPD’s Strategic Response Unit arrived with handcuffs and electric saws. All eight demonstrators, some of whom were undocumented, were arrested.

Trump is Cosecha’s biggest concern, and they plan to demonstrate through the general election. The organization does not actively endorse candidates, and they don’t feel that an immigration reform bill will come with the the election of Hillary Clinton, though they will keep organizing until something changes.

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