A group of activists and celebrities gathered in midtown Monday night to deliver “The People’s State of the Union,” a counter to President Donald Trump’s upcoming speech.
Addressing the crowd from a podium at The Town Hall theater on West 43rd Street, actor Mark Ruffalo took jabs at the president’s reported bad eating habits and affinity for golfing.
“I know that you haven’t been a part of a country club these past few months, eating cheeseburgers, sitting on a gold toilet, waiting for someone to bring you a chocolate cake,” Ruffalo told the nearly packed 1,400-seat theater. “You have been working your tuchus off. We want to embrace each other in the fight to protect the rights of all Americans, including the Dreamers, and to start to lay out the paths of greater victory in 2018.”
Before the event started, as attendees filed into their seats with snacks and drinks, Brooklyn resident Jenny Lynn Mcnutt, 65, said she hoped to walk away from the night with new, concrete strategies on how to resist the current administration.
“I came here to show the world that we are not okay with this divisive, sociopathic president,” she added. “I’m particularly interested with issues with immigration and the environment.”
Ruffalo said the silver lining of the Trump presidency has been the resistance movement that has grown out of it and promised attendees that “we ain’t stopping.”
“Tonight is about unity, about our positive vision of the promise of America,” he added.
The actor/activist was joined on stage by the likes of Michael Moore, John Leguizamo, Wanda Sykes and Kathy Najimy, as well as Mayor Bill de Blasio and activists from the Women’s March and United We Dream.
Moore outlined four ways the audience could stay engaged: “Make the morning calls to Congress; join everything and show up; run for office and back women, and especially women of color, running for office; and be kind to yourselves and to each other during this difficult time.”
Sykes kicked the event off just after 8 p.m. to cheers from the crowd as she offered a brief history of how suffragettes founded the venue as a meeting place to discuss issues facing New Yorkers at the time. In 1921, Margaret Sanger was arrested on Town Hall’s stage during a public meeting on birth control, according to the theater’s website.
Throughout the event, quotes by inspirational leaders who have spoken at The Town Hall theater were projected onto a screen on the stage. The venue has seen such luminaries as Eleanor Roosevelt, Langston Hughes and Joan Baez grace its stage, organizers said.
United We Dream founder Cristina Jiménez led the charge in the fight for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals enrollees, shouting “We and our families are undocumented, unafraid and here to stay,” which drew a standing ovation from the audience.
“Every single Democrat and Republican who does not have the spine to stand up to Trump’s nativist vision, the resistance will hold you accountable,” Jiménez added.
De Blasio took the stage to give his own description of the current state of the union.
“You want to know what the state of the union is? The state of the union is that people are fired up,” the mayor said. “It is not about what’s happening in Washington, D.C. It’s what’s happening in every neighborhood. We are the ones who will take back our nation.”
The enthusiastic audience cheered and swayed to the beat as Andra Day and Common performed “Stand Up for Something.”
Before the performance, Common gave a shout out to the Black Lives Matter movement in “raising our consciousness.”
Women’s March artistic director Paola Mendoza told the crowd the organization has launched a campaign called Power to the Polls, with the goal of registering 1 million new voters.
“[This year] will be ours because it must be ours. We have to protect democracy, we have to protect the truth,” she said. “We will do that with those who have never voted before. We will do that with the young people.”
Cynthia Nixon, who has previously hinted at a possible gubernatorial run, said the country’s democracy is under attack and Americans need to stand up and protect it.
“We need to make sure that special counsel gets to conduct a thorough, unimpeded investigation,” she said of the Trump-Russia investigation before calling on people to take to the streets if special prosecutor Robert Mueller is fired. “Democracy is like a muscle. If you don’t use it, you lose it.”
Moore capped the night off with a “To Do List” for 2018, which included removing Republicans from Congress during midterm elections, supporting local government elections and to “stop worrying about [Vice President Mike Pence].”
“First things first. Stop whining about Pence. Leave Pence to me, I’ll take care of him,” he added.
Tickets for the event were sold on Ticketmaster for $47. It also was live-streamed on MoveOn.org’s Facebook page.
With Nicole Brown