Protesters anticipating President Donald Trump’s return to New York City this week took to the streets of Manhattan on Sunday to denounce his response to the recent unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Waving signs that read “Call out Evil” and “No Hate. No Violence,” hundreds of protesters marched through midtown Manhattan, Times Square and Union Square in separate demonstrations with a common message for the president: disavow white nationalist groups — including the KKK and neo-Nazis — who have clashed with anti-racism protesters in Charlottesville.
Trump on Saturday, responding to the deadly violence in the Virginia college town, said “we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides — on many sides.” But for many of the protesters in New York City on Sunday, Trump’s words fell short, by not directly naming and denouncing groups such as the KKK with a long history of racially motivated violence.
“Did Trump call out these thugs, these murderers for what they are? No!” shouted Travis Morales an organizer with the left-leaning group Refuse Fascism, as he addressed protesters in Columbus Circle before leading a march to Times Square and back up to Trump Tower.
The march, organized by Refuse Fascism, and another led by a group called “Rise and Resist," had been originally planned to protest Trump’s anticipated arrival Sunday. It eventually converged across the street from Trump Tower Sunday afternoon, bringing together more than 300 anti-Trump protesters who chanted the name of Heather Heyer, 32, who was killed in Charlottesville after a car plowed through a crowded street of anti-racism protesters. Police identified the driver as James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Ohio, who had embraced Nazi ideology and white supremacist views, according to a former teacher.
“Say her name. Say her name. Heather Heyer rest in power,” chanted the protesters, who stretched along Fifth Avenue from 57th to 55th streets as a smaller group of about 50 Trump supporters donning his signature “Make America Great Again” red caps waved his campaign signs from across the street.
The president’s supporters shouted that he was “the best,” while anti-Trump protesters criticized him for saying a day earlier that the violence in Charlottesville stemmed from “many sides.” Citing Heyer’s death, they argued the white nationalist groups incited the violence.
“I have been marching for civil rights, human rights, everybody’s rights for more than 50 years and I’m sick of it,” said Joyce Meyer, 70, an anti-Trump protester who lives on the Upper West Side. “Time to put an end to this.”
Three demonstrators were arrested at the rally near Trump Tower, police said. The charges against them weren’t immediately clear.
In Union Square, at a protest organized by the left-leaning group Indivisible and other activist groups, about 200 demonstrators rallied in a circle singing “We Shall Overcome” and “This Land is your Land.”
Marianne Rubin, 89, from Westchester, stood with a sign reading “I escaped the Nazis once. You will not defeat me now.”
She said she was 12 when her family escaped Nazi Germany, and said that she never thought she’d see the group’s ideas resurfacing in the mainstream.
“I am horrified at what’s happening,” Rubin said. “My family has been through this once already.”
Trump had originally been expected to come to New York on Sunday, but Mayor Bill de Blasio said earlier in the day that the president was now expected to arrive on Monday.
As of Sunday night, the White House had not confirmed the president’s travel plans. A spokeswoman said that Trump is due in Washington, D.C. for a news conference and would not confirm whether the president would travel to New York City afterward.
De Blasio, who spoke just before the kickoff of the city’s annual Dominican Day Parade in midtown Manhattan, also called on Trump to more harshly “condemn the white supremist movement.”
“President Trump needs to speak out to say this is an act of terrorism,” the mayor said.