Fighting Trump with love in Tompkins Square Park

Councilmember Rosie Mendez, above, organized the rally with her district leaders, Carlina Rivera and Anthony Feliciano. Photos by Sarah Ferguson
Councilmember Rosie Mendez, above, organized the rally with her district leaders, Carlina Rivera and Anthony Feliciano. Photos by Sarah Ferguson

BY SARAH FERGUSON | Love trumped hate in Tompkins Square Park on Monday evening, as close to 1,000 people braved the cold to protest the Trump administration’s new sweeping rules targeting Muslims, undocumented immigrants and refugees.

The “Rally Against Hate” was called by Councilmember Rosie Mendez, who said she felt it was important to mobilize in the East Village and Lower East Side — a neighborhood that has been a gateway to immigrants and cauldron of dissent since the 1800s.

“No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here!” she shouted, leading the crowd in chants.

Mendez was joined by Lower Manhattan Councilmember Margaret Chin, who led chants in English, Spanish and Chinese.

“I am an immigrant,” Chin declared. “My great grandparents helped build a railroad to unite this country. I was able to come here as a refugee in 1963, under Kennedy’s refugee program.

“The United States is strong because of diversity,” Chin continued. “We will resist, we will stay strong, and we will not be defeated.”

Also speaking out was Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who came from a previous rally Downtown to oppose Trump’s pick for Education secretary, billionaire Betsy DeVos.

“We will make sure that in two years we will have a different Congress,” Brewer vowed. “And maybe Mr. Trump, you won’t even last that long,” she added.

“Dump Trump! He’s a chump!” the crowd chanted in approval.

Standing up to Trump: A mother and her daughter at the rally.

Public Advocate Letitia James, who has been making the rounds at all the anti-Trump events, said it was “an honor and a privilege to fight back against a tyrant.”

“We’ve got an obligation and a duty, whenever confronted with a lawless government, to rise up and resist!” she said.

Protests have been erupting all over since Friday, when Trump issued an executive order banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — from entering the U.S. for at least 90 days. Trump has called these countries “sources of terror.”

The executive order also bars entry to all refugees from Syria indefinitely, and from other countries for 120 days.

While a rally in Tompkins Square is unlikely to prompt the Trump administration to reverse tracks, many of those gathered said they felt it was important to unite with their neighbors to push back in any way they can.

“We need to deputize ourselves to protect our communities,” suggested District Leader Anthony Feliciano. “Let us be every day, every night, in the streets, fighting to defend our democracy.”

Some of the most powerful statements came from local religious leaders, such as Abu Sufian, an imam at the Madina Masjid mosque on E. 11th St. and First Ave.

Abu Sufian, an imam at the Madina Masjid mosque on E. 11th St. and First Ave., accused Trump of living in an “alternate reality.”

Sufian said he prayed for Trump when he watched him take office — eliciting loud boos from the crowd. But Sufian said he sees now how Trump is violating his oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution. He accused him of living in an “alternative reality.”

“Mr. President, you want to ban people based on their color, based on their nationality, based on their faith and religion — it’s completely inhuman and unconstitutional,” Sufian said.

Sufian was backed by Harvey Epstein, an attorney at the Urban Justice Center.

“Let’s be clear: Donald Trump is breaking the law,”  Epstein declared, prompting Mendez to break into chants of “Lock him up!”

Epstein urged people to support the American Civil Liberties Union and other legal groups that are battling to overturn Trump’s executive orders.

“We are fighting for each other,” Epstein said. “They are going to come for us one at a time. We need to be unified. We need to be supported.”

Mendez said the Urban Justice Center would be hosting “Know Your Rights” workshops, to be held in the evenings in public schools around the neighborhood.

Pastor Phil Trzynka of the Trinity Lower East Side Lutheran Church on Avenue B also gave remarks. He said he realized how important it was to speak out personally this past Sunday, when he found someone had smeared dog feces on the banner hanging outside the church, which reads, “Immigrants Welcome Here.”

“I realized then that it’s got to change, I’ve got to speak out, and make my message heard more loudly and more clearly,” Trzynka said.

“The one thing I know about God, is that God actually doesn’t run away from s—,” Trzynka added. “God runs into the middle of s— to change it. And God changes s— with love, by loving every single person, every single thing.”

“Love is what it takes, but love needs legs,” Trzynka said. “Love needs every one of us to commit to justice, to be people of love, to share that love for all.”

“Love, not hate, makes America great!” the crowd chanted.

Similarly, Damaris Reyes, executive director of the tenant rights group GOLES (Good Old Lower East Side), said she was tired of focusing on hate.

“I want to talk about how love is going to fuel us,” Reyes said, “so that we can rise up, so that we can resist.

“Refugees lives matter! Immigrant lives matter! Black lives matter!” Reyes shouted.