The rally at Battery Park, organized by The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), Make The Road New York and ten other local civil and political action groups, capped a weekend of action nationwide in opposition to the orders, including spontaneous protests at a number of airports where immigrants and refugees were being detained by US authorities.
The crowd at Battery Park heard from New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, and other local government officials, as well as the leadership of the rally’s organizing groups.
Steven Choi, executive director at NYIC, addressed the rally, saying: “Our President, Donald Trump, he declared war against immigrant communities….He’s got powerful things on his side: he’s got guns, he’s got tanks, he’s got hundreds of thousands of ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] agents – but…we are powerful.”
Following him, Javier Valdes, co-executive director of Make The Road New York, told the crowd that New York is leading the fight against Trump nationally, citing a demonstration on Saturday at JFK International Airport that attracted thousands of activists.
“From the bottom of our hearts thank you for standing with the immigrant community, thank you for standing with the refugee community, thank you for standing with the Muslim community,” he said.
Senator Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader, who has come under attack from liberal New Yorkers and members of the Democratic Party for appearing too soft on the Trump administration, struck a bullish tone during his address:
“We are here today to deliver a vociferous ‘no’ to both the President and those horrible executive orders. They’re bad for America, they’re bad for humanity, they’re bad for our national security, and they are against everything that is American,” he said.
Schumer added that after calls with Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, 42 detainees being held at JFK International Airport because of the orders would be released “shortly.”
“I will not rest until the horrible orders are repealed,” he said.
The NYIC said 30,000 people attended the rally on their Facebook page.
J, a 28-yr old Jewish-American demonstrator who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “Jewish refugees got turned away from America. As a Jewish-American person I cannot imagine doing that to anyone else, I cannot imagine my country repeating that.”
She added that New York’s elected representatives should be blocking more of Trump’s appointees. “I think Gillibrand has done a pretty good job [but] I think Schumer has mostly been voting yes.”
Four Trump appointees have been confirmed by the Senate so far: General James Mattis for the Department of Defense, General John Kelly for the Department of Homeland Security, Nikki Haley for US Ambassador to the UN , and Mike Pompeo for the Central Intelligence Agency. Senator Gillibrand rejected all but Nikki Haley. In contrast, Senator Schumer voted in favor of each.