Hundreds Gather to Discuss How to Deal with Trump

Democrats and liberals all over the country are all fired up, looking for ways to resist the policies of the new Trump administration. And the Upper West Side of Manhattan, as you might expect, is no exception. On Wednesday, February 22, for example, a line of more than 800 people wrapped around the block, waiting for a strategy meeting at the Society of Ethical Culture.

The front of the crowd waits in anticipation of getting into the town hall.

The front of the crowd waits in anticipation of getting into the town hall.

Near the middle of the line was Tori Kwan, a 25 year old professional in the fashion industry, waiting with hundreds of others to hear from a panel of organizations like the Council of American Islamic Relations, Planned Parenthood, and the NY Civil Liberties Union.

The event was co-hosted by NY Indivisible and the Society of Ethical Culture, and included six panelists in all, representing organizations across the city whose members have been affected by the new administration. Also included among the speakers were representatives from Food and Water Watch, Community Service Society, and the NYC Anti-Violence Project. When the event finally got started, people were still trying to get in.

Most people in the crowd were around or over the age of 25. Quite a few had traveled from as far as Brooklyn to attend, having heard about the town hall over Facebook and Twitter. That includes Kwan, who has recently started using social media again, after a time away from it. “Because of the election, I got back on Twitter and Facebook,” says Kwan. “I generally don’t like social media, but it has become very powerful.” Many of the participants, including Kwan, were participants in previous protests, such as the Women’s March on Washington and the JFK protests at Terminal 4.

The panel discussions tended to touch on community issues trickling from a Trump presidency, such as increased Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids. One theme that came up from several of the speakers: communication. Speakers encouraged the audience to talk with family, friends, and co-workers in their community to help others get involved in the larger discussion of these issues.

Albert Cahn, a panelist and legal director at CAIR, echoed the point that the most important voices are those that speak out and make themselves known, even if it’s in the streets. But, “make sure you are sharing reliable information, even on social media,” said Donna Lieberman, another panelist and member of the NYCLU.

Some people in the crowd took out notebooks and phones to jot down quotes and links as panelists mentioned them. Kwan, too, kept a notebook in hand while listening to the panelists for the two-hour long meeting.

Among the stories she heard was one told by Shelby Chestnut, Director of Community Organizing at the Anti-Violence Project, a group fighting to end violence against the LGBTQ community through education and organizing. She spoke of how a young Latino boy jumping a turnstyle at a subway to get to school could be racially profiled, arrested, and deported depending on his immigration status.

Eric Weltman, senior organizer at Food and Water Watch, raised posters that read, “Resist Trump” and “Call Cuomo 866-846-4075” when asked how everyday citizens can help.

Eric Weltman, far left, raises poster in response to how citizens can help.

Eric Weltman, far left, raises poster in response to how citizens can help.

And, as the night went on, the crowd was reminded to pace itself. As one panelist put it, “This is a marathon, not a sprint.”

“Just don’t stop talking about this,” said Kwan. “We need to hear these success stories to keep fighting. At this point in history, you just have to pick to be on the right side of it.”