Protesting Trump Actions in Washington Square

Washington Square Park (Photo by Zach Williams for Voices of NY)

Thousands of people gathered at Washington Square Park on Jan. 25 to protest President Trump’s announced crackdown on immigration.

The crowd denounced a series of executive actions planned by Trump. They include the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a ban on immigration from certain predominately Muslim countries and the suspension of refugee resettlement into the U.S. Elected officials and activists at the rally vowed to push back through the legal system and by continuing protests that have erupted ever since the Manhattan businessman won the presidential election two months ago.

The xenophobia that Trump represents, City Councilmember Jumaane Williams told the crowd, cannot be easily dismissed as the actions and policies of one man. But immigrant communities in the U.S. have a history of overcoming this darker side of American politics, according to Williams.

“I want to push back at the idea that this is not what America is. Unfortunately, it is what America is but it’s not who America said it’s supposed to be,” he said. “But even in the face of all that, we have always been here. Resistance has always been here.”

(Photo by Zach Williams for Voices of NY)

The local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations began organizing the rally the night before, following media reports that Trump would make good on promises from the campaign. A year and a half of organizing against Trump has made mobilizing thousands of people easier even on a moment’s notice, according to Afaf Nasher, executive director of the council.

But avoiding pessimism is as important as opposing the specifics of Trump’s plans, according to Nasher. Religious and ethnic identities can make immigrant communities a target, but they can become a source of strength as well during trying times, she said in an interview. About four in 10 residents of New York City are immigrants.

“I tell my family, my children never to hide their Islamic identity,” she added. “Prophets don’t come when everything is all rosy and nice, and picture-perfect prophets come when there are serious social justice issues that need to be fixed.”

Mayors from cities like New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago have promised to fight a new effort from Trump to strip sanctuary cities of federal funding. New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer — who spoke at the Jan. 25 rally — has said that the city relies on about $7 billion from the federal government.

(Photo by Zach Williams for Voices of NY)

History is repeating itself, according to Naaila Hassan, whose parents fled Pakistan before she was born. Signs at Washington Square Park that night evoked the treatment of Jews and Japanese Americans during World War II. Election season fears that Trump really meant what he said are coming true, Hassan said in an interview.

“I was told so many times by people who weren’t going to be affected by his policies that everything was going to be OK,” she said.

Indiana native Gregory Trybula said he moved to the city three years ago for reasons similar to those motivating migrants escaping war and poverty in places such as the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

Trybula said he came to Washington Square Park on Jan. 25 not because he would be directly affected by the immigration crackdown but because of the threat it posed to the city that allowed him to live the way he wanted to as a gay man.

“This city should remain a sanctuary for all people, all people who want to interact peaceful and build a community and strengthen each other,” he said.

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