NEW YORK – Thousands of people gathered Thursday night outside Donald Trump’s Upper West Side hotel for a protest rally designed to gird his opponents for a tough four years.
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The event, organized by filmmaker Michael Moore and Greenpeace, was addressed by Hollywood stars, politicians, senior Democrats and even a former illegal immigrant who defines himself as “a queer Latino.” Speaking to Haaretz, a police officer estimated that about 20,000 people had attended the protest at 62nd Street and Central Park West.
Moore, who a few months ago directed an improvised, low-budget documentary film called “Michael Moore in TrumpLand,” hosted the event broadcast live on Facebook.
Robert De Niro opened the rally with mock tweets in which Trump attacks him: “‘De Niro’s career is a disaster. He was passed over for ‘Godfather IV’ and ‘Magnificent Seven.’ Pathetic!’” “De Niro should give back his Oscars. Voting was rigged!’” “There’s only one true Raging Bull and that is Vladimir Putin.”
The Hollywood legend then became more serious. “He’s a bad example for this country and this city. The president-elect said our country was a dumping ground for the world. Really? These huddled masses yearning to breathe free built our country and our lifeblood, of our strong diverse and beautiful New York City,” De Niro said.
“They gave us the strength to prosper in the mid-70s when the government sent us the message to drop dead. They gave us the strength to recover after the tragedy of 9/11. Now they’re giving us the strength to persevere in the face of the promises of the incoming government.”
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who since the election has repeatedly criticized Trump, pledged at the rally not to give up the struggle.
“Tomorrow, Donald Trump will have power, but tomorrow, you will have power as well. Donald Trump may control the agenda in Washington, but we control our destiny as Americans,” de Blasio said. He stressed the need for health insurance for everyone, equal opportunity regardless of one’s religion, race or sex, and an economic structure that serves 99% of Americans, not just 1%.
He listed solutions that could protect New Yorkers from the changes Trump might initiate. These included an “NYC ID” with no background check; it would let everyone in the city, including undocumented immigrants, identify themselves to the legal authorities should the need arise.
De Blasio also called Thursday night’s efforts the start of a movement to protect what has been achieved; he and a raft of mayors have launched an effort called 100 Days of Resistance.
Expecting the worst
Mayor Betsy Hodges of Minneapolis talked about the need for a new protest movement that would bring together millions of activists around the United States. She said that everyone – including women, people with disabilities and members of the LGBT community – knew that Trump will have to go through the mayors. If he tries to persecute activists, deport immigrants or force Muslims to register, the mayors will be there to fight him, Hodges said.
Moore offered a note of optimism. “As bad as we think it’s going to be, it’s going to be worse. The good news is, there are more of us than there are of them. [Hillary Clinton] not only won by 3 million more votes, there’s another 7 million who voted Green or Libertarian,” Moore said.
“They also didn’t want Donald J. Trump. That’s more than 10 million voters that said no to Donald J. Trump . He does not rule with a mandate. There is no mandate. Keep this in mind in your moments of despair. You are not alone. We are the majority. Don’t give up!”
Moore asked the crowd to repeat after him the telephone number of Congress’ switchboard. To huge applause, he promised that Trump would not complete four years in office and explained how to start a citizens’ revolt.
“Every day, you have to contact your congressman or one of your two senators,” Moore said. “Every day. It takes three minutes. Wake up, brush your teeth, make coffee, contact Congress. The phone number is: 202-225-3121.”
He added that the switchboard was staffed 24 hours a day, and if people didn’t know who their senators and congressmen were, they could tell the operator their ZIP code and get transferred to the relevant legislator. He directed the crowd to 100 Days of Resistance’s online effort, which would coordinate demonstrations during the new administration’s first 100 days and suggest topics to discuss on the phone with legislators.
Moore also said he had discovered the only weapon that could topple a president impervious to diplomatic, sexual or financial scandals. Referring to Trump’s tradition of tweeting attacks on Alec Baldwin and other comedians who mock him, Moore said Trump’s Achilles’ heel was his lack of a sense of humor; comedy frightens him the most. As Moore put it, all the people in the crowd had a sense of humor, so Trump could be defeated.
Hollywood on the Hudson
Baldwin, for his part, opened his short speech with an imitation referencing the rumors about Trump having had an escapade with sex workers in a Moscow hotel.
Moore, who announced the rally on his Twitter feed around a week ago, enlisted speakers including African-American preacher and activist Al Sharpton and Hollywood luminaries including Julianne Moore, Cynthia Nixon, Mark Ruffalo, Shailene Woodley and Marisa Tomei.
The rally – called “We Stand United!” – promoted many issues. These included protecting Muslims and undocumented immigrants from possible persecution and deportation, and the need to rally to slow down global warming.
While many of the protesters carried signs saying “Not My President” or “Love Trumps Hate,” some opted for the president-elect’s style and attacked him personally. In posters he was seen kissing Russian President Vladimir Putin or lasciviously eyeing his own daughter Ivanka.
One demonstrator carried a sign with a drawing of three blond, blue-eyed children looking admiringly at a symbol resembling a swastika. It read “Trump’s alt-right,” and beneath the image contained the words “Look Familiar?”
Nixon of “Sex and the City” fame told the demonstrators how she, her wife and their three children watched the news about the Supreme Court’s approval of gay marriage; it was one of the happiest moments of her life. They wouldn’t let Trump take them backward.
Ruffalo added: “We have each other. We are coming together here tonight to protect something precious to us and that’s each other. We are not protesters, we are people protectors.”
After two hours of speeches in the cold, the crowd began to disperse. Nearby, at the subway entrance near the Trump International, an artist had set up a machine called “The All-Seeing Trump.” It contained a puppet of Trump pretending to predict the future.
Dozens of demonstrators took pictures of the exhibit, and when one of them inserted a quarter into the slot a card popped out. One side said “I see great wealth in the future,” and the other side: “For me of course – not for you.”