At noon on Sunday, members of the ANSWER Coalition, the Party for Socialism and Liberation and other volunteers gathered in the basement of the Justice Center en El Barrio in East Harlem to prepare for a march up to the Bronx. Phil Donaus, 20, sat alone on a bench watching the group. This would be his first rally. “I’m usually the kind of guy who will want to do things quietly,” Donaus said. “But this time it’s different. This time it feels personal.”
At the corner of Lexington Avenue and 116th Street, the group handed out flyers promoting a massive rally to take place at President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration in Washington D.C. early next year. It was a windy day and temperatures dipped below 40 degrees. Many of the hundreds who had volunteered to march didn’t show up but Karina Garcia, one of the New York City organizers with the ANSWER Coalition, a national organization engaged in fighting for social justice, rallied around 50 people.
In her speech, Garcia called out to Muslims, the LGBT community, poor people, racial minorities and immigrants to join their movement. “We’re not here to support any one party,” she said. “We’re here to organize the people, to stand up and fight back. Throughout history, the people have shown they’re capable of rising up and making change.” Garcia cited the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s and the Immigrant Rights Movement of 2006, which saw the massive mobilization of the Latino community against anti-immigrant legislation. “That movement is still here,” she said. “We are still here.”
The march began at 12:30 p.m., moving through Harlem and making its way up to the Bronx. Close by, over 20 police vehicles trailed the group. Though many of the protesters were wary of the strong showing of force, the demonstration continued, loud but peaceful. “We’re here to make sure nobody gets hurt,” said a police officer following the marchers on foot.
Paul Wilcox, 66, continued handing out flyers as the group marched through Harlem. “There’s a big Mexican community here,” he said. “We’re here to show them they’re not alone in this. I’m so sick of the racist pigs speaking in my name. Trump says he’s standing for white people. He’s not.”
Residents stopped to watch the display, many cheering the protesters on. Drivers honked their horns in support at every intersection. Some bystanders joined the rally themselves. One family marched alongside the group, parents and young children carrying banners of their own.
As the protesters entered the Bronx, more members of the ANSWER Coalition joined up. One of them, Kerbie Joseph, took a megaphone. “There are a lot of people over at Union Square,” she said. “But we know where our people are.” She addressed the protesters, as well as the Bronx community. “We’re not saying anything new,” she said. “Everything we’re saying, these people here are already saying up in their living rooms.”
“People are worried about the electoral vote,” Joseph said. “But we already know where that’s gonna go. The system wasn’t made for us. The system ain’t broken. It’s working exactly as it’s supposed to be.”
According to Garcia, the massive rally that the ANSWER Coalition is organizing against Trump’s inauguration is only a short-term goal. In the long term, she hopes this movement will turn into a tool of genuine reform. But in order to gain critical mass, it must begin with grassroots efforts like this, she said. “We want to bring together all the people in shock,” she said. “The message we want to send out is: You are not alone.”
Two and a half hours after the march began, the group came to a stop along Cypress Avenue by 138th Street. Spirits were high as the organizers thanked those in attendance and the group slowly began to disperse. Donaus lagged behind, one of the last to leave. “I think about the events that make it into our history books,” he said. “This is one of those moments. I think about, when I look back at this, which side of history am I gonna be?”
The ANSWER Coalition and the Party for Socialism and Liberation will continue staging these marches leading up to their major protest in Freedom Plaza, Washington D.C., during Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017.