BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | “Today is the first of many days to take a stand against this monster!” declared Erik Coler, the young new president of Village Independent Democrats, from atop the steps in front of the Gandhi statue in Union Square. As he spoke, Coler, 25, handed out pink bandanas to a group of 200 Downtowners who mustered there Saturday morning. They included members of V.I.D., Downtown Independent Democrats and a new outfit, United Through Action, that formed last month.
Most donned the pink squares as neckerchiefs and armbands. Brooke McGowan chose to wear hers around her head like a hijab. A Battery Park City resident, she is the director of the Leila Heller gallery in Chelsea. Shocked and concerned about Donald Trump’s election, she and her husband have regularly been attending organizing meetings with V.I.D., D.I.D. and others at the L.G.B.T.Q. Center, on W. 13th St.
“He’s been radicalized,” she quipped of her husband, who didn’t want to give his name. “I come from a long line of radicals.”
Pink bandanas securely fastened, everyone dove into the subway and rode the train, crowded with fellow protesters, up to East Midtown for the start of the massive Women’s March on New York City. Filing into the crowd, the Downtowners added their bodies and voices to the huge event, whose numbers were later estimated to be 400,000. There were a lot of men, and a fair number of small kids, too.
It was just one of many related demonstrations across the country and around the globe. The Women’s March in Washington, D.C., drew an estimated 500,000 people, while Los Angeles’s was the biggest, with 750,000. London saw 100,000 march in protest against the new president, while a 30-person expedition in Antarctica even held an anti-Trump rally, according to the New York Post.
Christopher Marte, who is running for election against City Councilmember Margaret Chin, was marching with the Downtown contingent.
“If you disagree with any of the points the president is backing, you should be here today — killing Planned Parenthood, xenophobia, deporting Muslims and immigrants,” he told The Villager. “America represents everybody, not just a small part of the population. My parents were immigrants. My cousins were immigrants,” said the young Lower East Side politico, who is of Dominican descent. “His hate speech — it’s pretty remarkable that you can even be elected saying that.”
As the Downtowners were squeezing in among the throng near E. 48th St. and Second Ave., state Senator Brad Hoylman, a pink scarf around his neck, happened to be making his way through the crush. He was heading toward the speakers’ stage — where Whoopi Goldberg and others had earlier given fiery remarks — to meet up with Assemblymember Deborah Glick and Councilmember Margaret Chin, who were already there.
“It’s an amazing crowd,” Hoylman marveled. “I’ve not seen this many people on the streets in a long time. It follows up a very dark day for the values that built this country,” he said of Trump’s inauguration, “but it gives hope.”
Kerrie Timmons, from Bank St., was among the Village group. She and her partner, Emily, were sporting cat-eared pink pussyhats — one of the signature symbols of the Women’s March, thanks to the Pussyhat Project. They were, of course, inspired by Trump’s infamous comment, in which he said that, as a wealthy and powerful guy, he could just grab women by their private parts and get away with it.
“I made them over a couple of days,” Timmons said. “It was really hard to get pink yarn. I had to go up to Michaels on Sixth Ave. and 22nd St., and they had like three left.”
Asked why she felt it was important to be there, she said, “Strength in numbers, and having a diverse crowd is important — to show it around myriad issues.”
Alexis Faraci, from the South Bronx, where she owns a designer pretzel bakery, was there with her pussyhatted sister, who lives in the Village, and their mother and aunt. Faraci said everybody in her Mott Haven neighborhood is an immigrant, and that if Trump follows through on his draconian deportation threats, it would be devastating.
“The immigration thing is very scary,” she said. “They fill all the jobs and all the housing in my neighborhood. Some of them are legal and some aren’t. So if it’s not a stable situation for them… .”
Her mother, asked her reasons for marching, bluntly answered, “Because climate change has a deadline to it.”
This march was unusual, in that, for four hours it actually didn’t move an inch — at least not the section where the V.I.D. / D.I.D. / U.T.A. group were at E. 48th St. This was apparently due to a combination of the organizers’ unorthodox attempt to send out the march in staggered waves, plus the unanticipated overwhelming numbers that turned out. One volunteer who was watching the procession pass by on 42nd St. later told The Villager that they had originally anticipated only about 8,000 to 10,000 people would show up.
“March! March! March!” the crowd chanted in frustration at several points.
Every now and then an enormous roar would build up a few blocks away and come thundering through the crowd, sort of like a sonic version of the baseball “wave.”
Despite the lack of locomotion, the crowd remained upbeat.
Overhead, to the crowd’s delight, three women in a 14th-floor apartment twirled their bras out a window.
Along with the pussyhats and various cat-ear designs, creative signs and chants also helped keep the mood positive.
“Girls just want to have fun-damental rights,” read the sign one little girl carried perched atop her dad’s shoulders.
Other placards included, “Hell hath no fury like 157,000,000 women scorned,” “Women and the earth have to tolerate a lot” and “Equality Meow!”
Among the catchy, rhyming chants were, “We need a leader, not a creepy tweeter!” and “Throw Pence over the fence!”
In their chants and on their signs, the marchers voiced a potpourri of concerns, from Black Lives Matter to the environment to Trump’s relationship with Russia’s Putin. More than a few signs showed the two men kissing.
The police didn’t have a heavy presence — or at least it didn’t feel that way. Apparently, they weren’t expecting violence from the Women’s March, one woman observed.
Kate Verner and her young daughter, India, were there with the Friends Seminary group, though they had gotten separated from them in the crowd. India attends the Friends school on E. 16th St. Their pussyhats were made out of pink fleece, which was a lot quicker to assemble than knitting them from scratch, Verner noted.
“I made five in an hour,” she said.
Asked how important she felt it was for them to be there, Verner said, “Absolutely. I have a 10-year-old daughter. I don’t want her growing up without Roe v. Wade. And women’s rights as a whole — I mean, where do you draw the line?”
A group of theater actors, writers and directors from Uptown, not surprisingly, were quick to verbalize answers when asked their main concerns about Trump.
“Repeal of the Affordable Care Act,” said one.
“He’s unstable,” offered another.
Added a third: “The most powerful man in the world spewing hatred.”
“I’m terrified of the violence he incites,” warned another.
Marching with her mother, who is from Haiti, Duresny Nemporin, 25, from Harlem, said critically of Trump, “He’s tweeting like a high school kid.” On second thought, she added, “Wait, high school kids don’t use Twitter. He’s tweeting like a college kid. His tweets are impulsive. They’re not carefully crafted.”
Dr. Ed and Sandy Kohn, two seniors from Cincinnati, were in town for a psychiatric conference and decided to join the “primal therapy” of Saturday’s march. According to reports, therapists say many of their patients have been beset by anxiety over the recent election. Could this climate of fear perhaps be a boon for mental-health professionals, increasing their workload? the doctor was asked.
“I don’t think people want the added business at the increased cost to the country,” said Dr. Kohn, as he leaned on a tall walking stick. “It’s been amazing how distressed people are about the election — people really feel it in their gut.”
Finally, the section of the march at E. 48th St. started to inch forward. Bob Gormley, district manger of Community Board 2, and Noho activist Zella Jones, who both came up with the Village group, joked that the blood flow was starting to return to their legs.
Asked his opinion on the new president, the straight-shooting Gormley composed his thoughts for a few seconds before speaking.
“Donald Trump is a disgrace and an embarrassment,” he said. “Because he’s so disconnected from reality, it makes him a danger to the United States and the world.”
Asked her feelings on the Women’s March, Jones offered, “I don’t think Trump’s disdain for women is that far from his disdain for a lot of things.”
After about five hours, this reporter bailed out of the march at 42nd St. and Lexington Ave. As darkness fell, the march would head on to Fifth Ave. and then up to E. 55th St., a block south of Trump Tower.
Afterward, local political club leaders were enthusiastic about the day, saying it energized people for what will, no doubt, be a long and determined struggle against the new Trump administration.
“The march was incredible. The turnout from the city was record high,” said V.I.D.’s Coler. “I’ve never seen so much focus and energy from so many people in my life. I can promise you that the Village Independent Democrats are going to continue this fight against Trump until he is either impeached or not re-elected in 2020. The march was just one day of many that we have to continue to push back against his racist, misogynistic, destructive agenda.”
Similarly, Jeanne Wilcke, president of D.I.D., said, “Lora Tenenbaum, Pete Davies and myself got separated from the group. Never saw the group again! No complaints. The sheer amount of people was awesome.
“The march was not jubilation or blind anger. I truly felt the purposefulness,” Wilcke added. “Every single, darn person there was on a mission. It was almost a military call to arms, with the ammunition being our presence. You saw the sense of duty to stand up for democracy, rights, our planet and our Constitution. I am overwhelmed by the tidal wave of people standing up right now. I’ve never seen anything like it.
“It was a moment in time,” Wilcke reflected. “We just changed the world and gave hope to our kids. Heck, even Riga and Antarctica weighed in. This mobilization is not stopping. It’s a power unto itself now.”