With the inauguration on Friday, ’tis the season to protest Donald Trump.
That includes marches and rallies across the city, but also something much more quiet: a 5:30 p.m. Upper East Side event Thursday when organizers hope some 800 people will gather to hold hands for peace.
Diana Wege, an artist and founder of We Oppose Violence Everywhere Now (WOVEN), a nonprofit with the admirable if somewhat ambitious goal of ending violence in our lifetime, says the seed for the event came when she and fellow WOVEN member and consultant Elizabeth Howard looked out Howard’s window on 94th Street. They noticed that you could see the spire of a church, the roof of a synagogue and the minaret of a mosque — three major world religions within the span of a few blocks.
“Sometime we should make a circle around the three,” Wege thought.
Joining hands in protest
That was a few years in the past, but three weeks ago, Wege said, she thought it might be time, given Trump’s campaign rhetoric about Islam and Muslim-Americans.
All protests might look alike from the outside (or from inside Trump Tower), but they differ in intent, execution and planning.
To quickly put together Circle of Peace, for example, Wege says she and her team went to the city’s Department of Transportation in search of a permit to ring the three institutions with handholding crowds, given that the group would be singing peace songs and (briefly) cutting off streets.
But the organizers reversed tactics when DOT informed them that at least one of the streets included an important bus lane. “We wouldn’t want them to shut down the buses,” says Wege.
The event was resized to take place on the sidewalks around the single block of Samuel Seabury Playground, in addition to a group of handholders in front of the church, St. Francis de Sales, and in front of and in the garden of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York.
The synagogue, Congregation Orach Chaim, will be in sight but not directly participating, according to a representative. Wege says she was told the organization doesn’t endorse political events.
Wege’s event is certainly political, in that it is a response to Trump’s campaign rhetoric and bombast, and, to a certain extent, his election. But it’s far from strident.
“We’re trying to be positive,” says Wege, providing an interfaith vision as a counterpoint to Trump. Howard says they do not want “conflict” or “loud voices, loud posters very much against Trump, with terrible images.” There will be no marching in the streets to Trump Tower.
If the police said don’t do something, she says, they’ll obey.
Protesting in protest
Other protesters will surely be different.
There is the Columbus Square protest Thursday afternoon featuring Mayor Bill de Blasio and actor Mark Ruffalo at the foot of Trump International Hotel, which could have a little more edge.
There’s a Friday march planned by leftist groups who will likely have little compunction about disrupting traffic. Earlier this week, some others set up shop in front of Goldman Sachs’ offices to oppose “Government Sachs.”
And then of course the Women’s March in NYC and elsewhere — which itself has been pulled back and forth by competing agendas, constituencies, visions — is set for Saturday.
The different events show different philosophies about ways to speak truth to power. Some fall more or less along a spectrum of “stunthood,” and they will likely have varying degrees of impact on local or national politics, or Trump himself. Some could have none.
Together, though, they show among many New Yorkers a lingering anxiety in search of an outlet, beyond considerations of utility, on the eve of Inauguration.