Thousands of New Yorkers — led by a star-studded roster of speakers and performers — gathered outside the Trump International Hotel in New York City Thursday evening to protest Donald Trump on the eve of his inauguration.
“This is the beginning of the 100 days of resistance,” declared filmmaker Michael Moore, who led the pre-inauguration rally along with other outspoken Trump critics, including Alec Baldwin, Mark Ruffalo, Rosie Perez and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
For about two hours, the relatively subdued crowd that had assembled between Trump’s Columbus Circle property and Central Park West listened and applauded as a lengthy lineup of A-listers, joined by local activists and officials, took turns denouncing the president-elect. Robert de Nero, Sally Field, Julianne Moore and Cher shared the dais with Reverend Al Sharpton, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the AFL-CIO’s Stuart Applebaum.
“[Trump] is a bad example of this country, this city,” said De Niro, before reading several mock tweets that he predicted Trump might write about him later that night.
From healthcare to immigration to Islamophobia and LGBT rights, there were almost as many issues addressed at the rally as there were speakers who took the stage. However, the overarching message of the evening was one of unity — and the power in numbers.
“We are the majority,” said Michael Moore, referring to the millions of Americans who voted against Trump. “There’s more of us than there are of them.”
Yet as the parade of public figures onstage vowed one by one to stand up to Trump, it seemed the president-elect had already begun to have an effect on many of the nonfamous New Yorkers in the crowd.
The majority of rallygoers who spoke to Yahoo News declined to provide their full names. Asked why, 27-year-old Carol from Queens answered, “Paranoia about the incoming administration.”
“Just a general fear based on type of people he’s putting in power and how insecure he is about any criticism,” she continued. “It gives you pause.”
Nearby, a group of New York City public school teachers — with the exception of one man, who identified himself as Jeffrey Ellis-Lee — were equally hesitant to share their names.
Pinned to each of their jackets was a yellow piece of paper with a lowercase letter “i” which, Ellis-Lee explained, “represents that Trump is an illegitimate president.”
One of the teachers, a young woman who declined to give her first or last name, said that beyond their own opposition to Trump and “the things that he said on the campaign trail,” she and her colleagues were motivated to attend Thursday night’s rally because of the fear and concern expressed by many of their immigrant students in the wake of the election.
“We had a number of students crying, freaked out that they would be picked up by somebody because what they understood from the news was that they were not wanted,” she said.
Another teacher, who identified herself only as Emily, chimed in: “If it hasn’t been bad enough nationally, having a population of kids who are directly affected by everything he’s been saying and everything he’s been proposing is very hard to experience.”
Protecting New York City’s immigrants against potential attempts at widespread deportations by the incoming Trump administration was among the ways Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed that he will “stand up against hate” as part of his “pledge for the next 100 days of action.”
But while the celebrity calls to action and resistance were met with cheers and applause from the crowd, for many in attendance the event was more of a comforting farewell to the pre-Trump era than anything else.
“I don’t know how much good this is gonna do on a practical level,” said Carol. “I just feel like I can’t do nothing.”
Carol’s friend Claire, a 26-year-old who works in publishing and also declined to give her last name, agreed, citing her “own personal moral compass” as motivation for participating in Thursday night’s rally.
“You don’t want to go into the abyss having done nothing in the face of it,” she said.