In response to President Trump’s sparse initial comments on the white supremacist and Neo Nazi gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia, protestors gathered outside Trump Tower in Manhattan on Monday.
In advance of any protests, a line of garbage trucks was lined up and parked around two sides of Trump Tower. Police on foot, on bikes, and atop looming horses sectioned off the protest into smaller groups, surrounding the chanting crowd on all sides. The crowd gathered around Trump Tower because the president himself announced he’d be staying in the building for several days. In addition to the police force, several members of the Secret Service ducked in and out of the crowd.
Crowds began gathering just before 5 p.m., though Trump gave a follow-up, live-streamed address regarding the violent events in Charlottesville. In his comments, he identified the hate groups present during the protest for the first time, remarking, “Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.” It wasn’t clear exactly how many protesters had heard the speech before coming uptown with their signs; when speaking to Inverse, a New York local who asked to be identified as Kristin said, “It really doesn’t matter what he said today. His team wrote that speech for him, and we know where his heart is.”
Notably, Jewish New Yorkers both for and against Trump gathered outside the Tower, both groups carrying signs and answering questions posed by others on the street. Signs held by Orthodox Jews read, “Google it: Orthodox Jews voted for Trump and we’ll do it again in 2020”. Two women who weren’t allied with the Orthodox counter-protesters stood nearby carrying signs which simply read, “Trump is president”.
Dan, a Jewish student at NYU, told Inverse he got into a heated argument about anti-Semitism with the Orthodox demonstrators, and he wasn’t alone in his frustration. Several signs noted the rampant anti-Semitism on display in Charlottesville on Friday and Saturday, including the one below.
Ironically, Trump Tower is located between upscale clothing and accessory stores, including Tiffany & Co, Dior, Fendi, Chanel, and Burberry, in and out of which customers streamed during the protest, hiding their faces from cameras and barking at people in their way. None of them responded to Inverse’s requests for comment regarding Charlottesville, Trump’s rhetoric, or the protest that had shut down all foot traffic in a three block radius.
One after the other, the protesters screamed several political chants, including “Show me what democracy looks like / this is what democracy looks like”, “Black lives matter,” and “Sexist, racist, anti-gay, Donald Trump, go away”. Driven by a large pair of drums located near Trump Tower’s entrance, the chant that seemed to ignite the crowd with the most energy was simply, “New York hates you”.
Trump was not spotted on Monday, though protesters had already surrounded Trump Tower by 9 p.m. and welcomed him home by shouting, “Shame! Shame! Shame!”
The primary political group present at Monday’s protest, Resist Fascism, kept the crowd engaged with back-to-back guest speakers, who described the scene in Charlottesville as they had witnessed it. Eva Sahana, a Resist Fascist organizer, told The Daily Beast on Monday, “Right now [Trump] he has blood all over his hands. The blood of Heather Heyer, the blood of everyone who was injured in Charlottesville yesterday.”
Trump did not recognize the protestors gathered outside his building, but political supporters addressed the crowd via Twitter, but former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich called the crowd of anti-fascists and peaceful protesters a “left-wing mob” which he believed had “given up thinking for yelling.”
When confronted with Gingrich’s tweet, Dan the NYU student simply said, “Jeez, what a windbag.”