Among the loud voices, you’ll hear at the Republican and Democratic national conventions will be New Yorkers from different protest groups that hope that their big-city energy will make a difference in the election.
Whether it’s fighting for equal rights among minorities or pushing for a platform to fight poverty, the local groups who are going to Cleveland and Philly say their protests will counter the rhetoric of the speakers and hold both parties to a high standard.
Sahar Alsahlani, who is heading to both conventions as part of the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said having New Yorkers on the ground is key because the city’s diversity reflects all walks of life across the nation.
“We’re showing this is the real America you’re going to have to contend with if you get elected,” she said.
Donald Trump’s controversial comments and policy proposals, including building a wall on the Mexican border and banning Muslims from entering the country, have made him a bigger focus among the protesters.
They plan to take part of several demonstrations this week including a march for economic justice Monday and a human wall that will surround the Quicken Loans Area Wednesday.
“When we hear rhetoric from Trump that tries to divide up the country, naturally all of the movements are going to come together to help each other,” Alsahlani said.
Alexander McCoy, 28, who helped organize the anti-Trump vets group, #vetsvshate, agreed.
He is heading to Cleveland with up to 50 other New York vets to join up with other former military members to denounce Trump at protests between Monday and Wednesday.
McCoy, who served as a sergeant in the Marines and is now studying at Columbia University, organized anti-Trump protests in the spring after the candidate failed to give donated money to vet groups. “He is a New Yorker and has a long history of treating New York veterans badly,” McCoy said. “This is not an act to take advantage of angry voters, this is what the man is really about.”
Although Hillary Clinton hasn’t been as divisive as her opponent during the campaign, the same New Yorkers who are in Cleveland said they will be just as loud when they head to Philly to demonstrate at the DNC.
Alsahlani said she and other New York Muslims will push Clinton to focus less on military presence in the Middle East and more on education and diplomacy. McCoy said his group will push DNC members to improve transgender and women’s rights in the military.
“It’s important that both parties establish in their platform that we are an inclusive society that draws strength from its diversity,” McCoy said.
Larry Cox, the co-director of the Manhattan-based Kairos: The Center on Religions, Rights and Social Justice who is helping to organize the Cleveland anti-poverty march, said it was important to hold Clinton responsible because advocacy groups have seen that a “better” candidate in the White House doesn’t always mean the groups get what they want.
“A lot of people thought electing Obama would solve all the problems and what we saw ... was that it wasn’t enough,” he said.
Cox added that New York’s influence is more important than everbecause it’s the first time that both major candidates have roots in New York and city voters have a responsibility to hold their feet to the fire.
“We need to make it clear if they want to represent New York, they need to represent our deepest moral values,” he said. “We need to make it clear that no one is allowed to say they are a New Yorker and not say or do what is morally right.”