As Donald Trump was getting sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, New York City and State elected officials were getting arrested for obstructing traffic on Fifth Avenue outside his eponymous tower.
Councilmen Jumaane Williams and Carlos Menchaca of Brooklyn rallied with Upper Manhattan State Senator and Kirsten John Foy, the Northeast Regional Director of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, before parking themselves in the path of oncoming. All three Democrats said they wanted to started resisting on the first day of Trump’s presidency because of the rhetoric he employed on the campaign trail.
“This administration coming in now, although very light on specifics during the campaign, they were very clear that the policies they want to pursue are very much rooted in things I believe are anathema to what America says that it stands for, whether it’s bigotry, racism and xenophobia. We have to resist those things,” said Williams, just before getting arrested at the intersection of 56th Street and 5th Avenue.
Menchaca and Alcantara both joined him. Moments before cops took them into custody, the Observer asked whether they agreed with legendary civil rights activist Congressman John Lewis’s characterization of Trump’s presidency as not “legitimate.”
Lewis had pointed to interference in the election from Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey and hackers in the employ of the Russian government, as well as Hillary Clinton’s three million ballot advantage in the popular. But Williams seemed to find the question irrelevant.
“I think he was legally elected. I’m not going to define what he meant by illegitimate or not. I do believe the Democrats, though, need to look within themselves about why we’re here, and it’s not because of the Russians or the CIA. On the same token, the response from Trump was probably the most disrespectful towards a civil rights icon, and it was just uncalled for,” said Williams.
Menchaca also emphasized the need for Democrats to look to the future, instead of revisiting last November’s election.
“I think we need to focus on is making sure that with the next crop of elected officials they really take a non-partisan view, and open up their hearts and minds to the people of the United States,” the Mexican-American councilman said. “Trump said that on the day he won that he wants to be the president of all the people, and we’re going to hold him to that. That’s why we’re here.”
Foy, for his part, seemed annoyed when asked if he was worried about the ramifications of a Trump Justice Department. He recalled the abuses 1950s and 1960s civil rights protesters endured.
“We’re here to defend what people who sacrificed their lives achieved. They shed blood, they resisted fire hoses and biting dogs. For us to be fearful of a Trump Justice Department does no justice to the sacrifices that we’re here to protect,” Foy said just before his arrest. “There is absolutely nothing that a Trump Justice Department can do to me to make me acquiesce to oppression, to make me silent in the face of bigotry and racism.”