NEW YORK – Hillary Clinton’s shocked supporters moved from fright to anger. You could hear the sound in the streets – a tribal hum that shook sidewalks not easily shaken.
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On Sixth Avenue, where protesters had taken control of the street as they marched uptown, the rhythmic hum was impossible to misinterpret: “Fuck Donald Trump, Fuck Donald Trump.”
There were dozens of marchers, then hundreds, then thousands. They turned Sixth Avenue into a sidewalk theater with one unmistakable message.
And their destination was clear to all: Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, the Versailles Palace of the emperor who's apparently still trying to figure out what has happened to him.
Even before the people took to the streets, the NYPD had closed off the area around Trump Tower. Their headache, and that of the secret service, is a president-elect located in the heart of Manhattan’s most crowded and exclusive interior; a ticking time bomb.
A security belt of dump trucks filled with sand surrounded the building. Pedestrian traffic along Fifth Avenue was curtailed and police lined up in threes outside an Abercrombie & Fitch branch.
It looked like a scene from one of those movies where New York is destroyed by an asteroid, a terror attack or ghosts – until the American hero arrives and saves the day. In this script, it’s not clear if Trump is the asteroid or the hero.
For the protesters, Trump was the personification of all disasters put together. “Donald Trump go away!” one yelled, to be followed by her mates around her: “Racist, sexist, anti-gay!”
Around 50th Street, with the march thinning out a bit, there were more people taking pictures of the happening. “We’re not a performance,” a marcher shouted at them, “Don’t take pictures, join in.”
Onlookers occasionally shouted “He’ll be a great president” at the marchers, not to mention “Love your country.” Then there was the old favorite: “Get a job.”
The minority who shouted at the demonstrators seemed typecast: a business-suited man with greasy hair, an out-of-town couple and a homeless man (who wasn’t the one shouting “Get a job”). It was a tidy representation of the Trump coalition – businesspeople, heartlanders and the out of luck.
They stood on the sidewalk as the children of the East Coast elite marched past in fury. "Not my president,” one shouted, and the others responded with the same phrase.
More people joined the march at this point, filling the street and leaving despairing motorists trapped in their cars. At 57th Street, the march turned west toward Fifth Avenue. Other slogans were added, many of them old favorites of the American left with little or no reference to Trump: a woman’s right to an abortion, black lives matter, gay rights, global warming.
The crowd was very young and very white; smartphones blazing and guys with beards. When the cry “Fuck white superiority” was replaced by “Fuck white America,” it was clear what they were protesting against: against the America outside New York City, outside the college campuses and outside the liberal Facebook groups. They were against Ohio’s 18 electors and Pennsylvania’s 20 electors who had messed things up for them. A woman in an army jacket held a sign: “Fuck the Electoral College.”
It was almost entertaining to see a white man in a woolen cap and Indian scarf shout: “Fuck white fertility.” Around him everyone exulted like a choir.
A typical slogan from the women was “My body, my choice.” When one of the guys tried to join in with the accepted male version, he accidently said “Her body, my choice.” A woman beside him quickly explained how this didn’t fly.
With all the confusing slogans and burdened by political correctness, it was easy to understand how the Democrats had failed to refine a message to compete with Trump’s crude simplicity.
The marchers were stopped at the corner of 57th Street and Fifth Avenue. Trump Tower would have been in touching distance were it not for New York’s finest. The people in the crowd now moved from anger to selfies and Instagram shots. They didn’t give the impression of people willing to clash with the police and pay for their wrath with an arrest or a broken tooth.
“Okay, what now?” asked a girl wearing a Bernie Sanders hat. No one replied.