New York City Councilmember Mark Levine organized post election meeting
In the aftermath of election week, residents of the Upper West Side and West Harlem expressed concerns about the prospect of a Trump presidency at a community meeting on Tuesday night organized by New York City councilmember, Mark Levine.
The meeting, which took place at the Harlem-based nonprofit children’s educational organization “Our Children’s Foundation,” was an effort by Levine to ease the fears of constituents concerned about the possible repeal of Obamacare, deportation of undocumented immigrants and other policies outlined during Trump’s divisive campaign.
Levine decided to hold the event after his office was inundated with messages from residents who are worried about Trump’s plans as president.
“We received a flood of concern from the community,” said Levine. “We hope to channel that into organizing. Tonight is about helping residents.”
Packed wall-to-wall in a conference hall on the third floor of the foundation’s office at 527 W. 125th Street, the mood was tense as around 160 people listened eagerly to a panel of experts giving presentations on immigration, constitutional law and other issues. The panel, which included academics from Columbia Law School, New York University as well immigration attorneys from social welfare organizations such as CUNY Citizenship NOW and the Sauti Yetu Center for African Women, had been organized to clarify questions residents have about the new administration.
“Trump threatens to send us back to a place where we no longer have a voice, where we no longer have a place in this community” said Kendall Thomas, a professor at Columbia University Law School. When asked a question about the electoral college, Thomas called for the electors to overturn the election results as an anti-democratic check intended to protect democracy.
How Obamacare could be preserved under Trump was another major theme of the night. Levine attacked the Trump campaign as “completely lacking in policy ideas” and said “if he tries to take away health insurance from 20 million people, there will be an uprising.”
As Levine spoke, the mood in the room picked up, and concerned looks turned into a buzz of excitement from audience members as they began discussions about moving forward past the election. His proposals for same-day voter registration, online and early voting were met with rapturous applause from the audience.
Lance Demonteiro, 27, a Clinton supporter who lives in West Harlem and works in advertising, said he came to the meeting to channel his anger over the election results into positive, productive action and to hear new ideas.
“Ultimately I’m looking for direction,” he said. “However from a personal level, I’m most concerned about my parents losing their healthcare. My mom has a pre-existing condition, and I’m afraid she’ll lose her health insurance.”
Demonteiro has been saving money for life events such as a wedding or a down payment on a house. Looking worried, his voice started breaking up as he quietly described his personal situation.
“Now, I feel like my finances are focused on emergency situations for my parents,” he said.
While health policy was also a concern to West Harlem resident Denise Yankou, a fundraiser for a nonprofit development agency, she said she is more concerned that the election has revealed that many people in the country are racist and misogynistic.
“I live in such a bubble, but I’m still very worried” said Yankou, 32. After a moment of hesitancy, she lowered her voice and looked at the other people in the room. “If I need an abortion I can get one,” she said. “I have resources, but other people won’t be able to.”
Yankou, a Clinton supporter, said she came to the meeting to be around others who think it’s important to take action.
Bernie Sanders supporter, Laurie Wen, 46, an activist from Morningside Heights, said she also wants to take action.
“I came out of rage, rage at the forces that allowed Trump to get elected,” she said. “I remember the Russian band Pussy Riot saying not to laugh when Trump announced he was running for office, and look where we are now.”
Wen, who was born in Hong Kong, immigrated to the U.S. in 1983 at the age of 12 and became a citizen in 1992, just in time to vote in that year’s presidential election. A New York resident for 15 years, Wen said she values the right to vote, which she did not have in Hong Kong, and that she is concerned about how Trump will deal with immigrants. When asked if she was afraid, Wen took a long pause before finally responding.
“My most immediate fear is him saying he will deport undocumented people and tear families apart,” she said.
In addition to health care coverage and immigration, Levine listed several areas that concern him the most, including women’s reproductive rights and the environment. “I am deeply afraid of backwards movement on climate change, a fight we are already behind on,” he said.
Looking forward, Levine said he hoped that people coming to the meeting would put pressure on local leaders to stand up against the Trump agenda. Scott Stringer, the New York City Comptroller, had echoed this sentiment earlier in the evening when he called on all anti-Trump New Yorkers present to think strategically and begin preparing to vote out the president-elect in the next election.