Hundreds gathered in Union Square Park Monday evening to protest the state of emergency declared by President Trump. Like protesters at similar events around the country, New Yorkers held signs decrying the idea of a border wall and criticizing the president generally.
President Trump declared the state of emergency on Friday morning, stating that the southern border was facing “an invasion of drugs, invasion of gangs, invasion of people—and it’s unacceptable.” The state of emergency could allow the president to reallocate government money for wall building along the border with Mexico, among other measures. The declaration has faced harsh criticism from Democrats and a few Republicans, and yesterday a coalition of 16 states—including New York—sued the president, arguing that only congress should have control over spending.
Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer released a joint statement stating: “This is plainly a power grab by a disappointed president, who has gone outside the bounds of the law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process.”
Critics have pointed out that data from the department of Homeland Security indicates that illegal border crossings are down, not up.
Protesters in Union Square also worried that the declaration circumvented the constitution. “Everyone here feels it’s contrary to the constitutional operation of our government,” said one protestor, Jim Hicks. “Because it’s not a true emergency, just a ploy to achieve objectives which were not particularly good to begin with.”
Nearby, protesters chanted and sang songs. “I think most of what they’ve done is an abuse of power. So this is another abuse of power,” said Deborah Rand. “I think he said it himself: ‘I didn’t need to do it.'” In his speech announcing the state of emergency, the president stated that “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.”
Protestor Colleen Dunn was vacationing in New York, but said she felt the need to join the demonstration. She explained that she was uncomfortable with the precedent set by the move: “Because, hey, when the next Democrat comes into office we could basically do the same thing on what?—Gun control.” Dunn wore a knit pink ‘pussy hat”—a rallying symbol from the anti-Trump women’s march.
The demonstration was organized by MoveOn, a progressive political action committee and organizing group. Similar rallies were held all over the country, in cities from Hawaii to Texas, some joined by congress members.
— Ayanna Pressley (@AyannaPressley) February 18, 2019
— Andrea Gagne (@AndreaGagne) February 18, 2019
In New York most of the protesters focused on the general anti-immigrant sentiment held by the Trump administration, and argued against the very idea of a wall. “The whole power of the wall is just allowing people who harbor a lot of racist, xenophobic, anti-immigrant, sentiment to feel comfortable like they can talk about it in a public world without being attacked,” said Michael Rose. “So it’s depressing because whether he builds it or not, that’s largely been achieved.”