While some shopped or rested on the President’s Day holiday on Monday, thousands across the U.S. and in New York instead joined demonstrations.
Not this president, they said.
Established in 1885, President’s Day is supposed to honor former presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. However, through the years it’s also been informally considered as a day to honor all the presidents that have served the country. As well as a day to go shopping with big discounts.
But how do Americans honor a president who has 53 percent of the country’s disapproval? In 30 cities across the country, many of them participated in a “Not My President’s Day.” In New York City, hundreds gathered at Columbus Circle, within earshot of the Trump International Hotel.
And they had a lot to say. “I’ve never seen anything like this President. Regardless of your party. I’ve never seen a president that’s so off track, so obviously unstable,” said Martin Binter, 81, from Manhattan.
Despite his age and the cane he holds in one hand to help him walk, Binter said he joined the rally because he fears for the democracy his grandchildren are going to inherit. He and his wife have never protested against a president—until now. They also attended the Women’s March.
Coincidentally, Presidents’ Day 2017 fell on the day that President Trump marked one month in power. According to Gallup data, presidents usually have high approval ratings a month in. From Kennedy (72 percent) to Bill Clinton (55 percent), all recent presidents have stayed within an average of 60 percent of approval in their first month in office.Trump, however, is hitting historical lows—a 41 percent of approval rating and 53 percent of disapproval rating.
And a month into his presidency, the group of protesters in Columbus Circle did not hesitate to say how they felt about this president. “I think President’s Day is a way to respect people who have served our country and I feel like in this administration, many of the people in the cabinet and in the White House don’t see it as serving their country. They see it as running their business however they want,” said Gretchen Margenthaler, 50, of Manhattan.
Gretchen’s sign reads “Not His Day” on one side, and “Not My Precedent” on the other. She explained it’s a play on the tweet that Trump wrote in which he spelled unprecedented incorrectly. “I thought it was appropriate because he’s not the president that I want for our country,” she said.
Families with little kids, and even some teenagers also came to mark the holiday, and to protest. Esma Gecir, 16, came with her school friends from New Jersey. This was her first time attending a protest. “When I told my friends and my teachers that I was coming to the protest they were like: “Why are you coming? There’s no reason, he’s already president,” said Esma, who wears a headscarf.
“We might not impeach him, but if someone in the Senate, in the House of Representatives, even maybe in the Cabinet— if they realize like, ‘look: there’s a lot of people protesting that are not agreeing with this, maybe we shouldn’t be doing this,’ and they try to oppose Mr. Trump; maybe we could do something different, maybe we could change, maybe we could spark something. That’s my goal,” she said.
Like Esma, her friend Naila Shataka, 17, is also protesting for the first time. “At school they tell us we should respect the president, which I don’t agree with. Not this president,” said Naila.
Protests against the president have become commonplace on New York City streets since Trump was elected. But will the momentum last?
“This is my first protest but there are many more to come still. If he stops being the way he is, maybe they will die down, but right now we don’t see any improvement,” explained Esma.
Margenthaler also considered the question. “I think it’s growing, it’s going to get bigger,” she said.
Meanwhile, Binter, the 81-year-old from Manhattan, says he will find a way to keep protesting. “Whether it’s giving money for an organization, whether is coming here or talking to my children, but I’ll try to protest in some way.”
Victoria Rosen of Manhattan agreed. “I think it’s going to last,” she said. “I was involved in Occupy Wall Street and that didn’t last. So part of me can feel a little concerned that maybe it won’t. But he’s given us reasons every single week to come out and stand up and fight back.”