MLK Day rally in Harlem focuses on Trump presidency

Sen.  Kirsten Gillibrand delivers fiery remarks   at National Action Network's King Day Public Policy Forum  in Harlem on Jan. 15, 2018.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand delivers fiery remarks at National Action Network’s King Day Public Policy Forum in Harlem on Jan. 15, 2018. Photo Credit: @calixto_87 via Twitter; @SamanthaMush via Twitter

Elected officials and leaders from throughout New York descended on the National Action Network’s Harlem headquarters Monday, Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, promising to continue fighting the current presidential administration.

At the House of Justice on 145th Street, hundreds cheered on state, federal and local officials in a standing room-only and often joyously-raucous room. Nearly every speaker described a way in which Dr. King’s teachings relate to the state’s fight against President Donald Trump.

“These are difficult times that the country is going through and, if we’re not careful, these are transformative times . . . I mean for the worse, in this case,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, calling incidents such as the riots in Charlottesville, Virginia, Trump’s reported words about Haiti and Africa, and the threats against DACA a pattern of discrimination. “This is the time for good and decent people to activate themselves and stand up and say we reject what’s going on in Washington, we acknowledge the discrimination that still exists and we’re going to make this place a better place.”

Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and president of NAN, led a chant of “no justice, no peace” before asking the crowd to hug the person sitting next to them.

“Dr. King was about accountability and he was about using the drama of marching and protest to get things done. We are not dramatists, we’re activists,” he said, adding a message to Trump that he’s “out of sync with your own state.”

“We’re talking about criminal justice reform,” Sharpton said. “We’re talking about New York being progressive while he’s trying to make America regressive.”

Rousing the group, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand got the loudest cheers as she quoted scripture and promised that injustice against one is injustice against all.

“We have to ask ourselves as we begin this new year: what can we do? What kind of action must we take?” she said. “We owe it to Dr. King and all those who fought to never lose hope, never lose our faith and never stop fighting. His lessons are the teachings of perseverance, the teachings of determination, the willingness to never give up even when it’s really hard — especially when it’s really hard.”

To her credit, Sharpton joked that Gillibrand was so tough Trump “better get your best gloves out and ought to eat three Big Mac’s rather than two because we’ve got a fighter from New York.”

Gillibrand’s Senate colleague Chuck Schumer joined her and several other elected officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Rep. Adriano Espaillat, Rep. Jerry Nadler, City Comptroller Scott Stringer and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.