Three people were arrested and a number of protesters were pepper-sprayed Saturday as Columbus Circle in Midtown Manhattan became a hub for a rally against presidential candidate Donald Trump.
“Donald Trump, go away. Racist, sexist, anti-gay,” the crowd that onlookers estimated at 1,000 chanted when they gathered at the corner of Central Park and as they marched on the sidewalks along 59th Street in Manhattan.
Protesters said an estimated 10 people were pepper-sprayed by New York Police Department officers. “The officers pushed us back and then started spraying pepper spray on all of them,” Bryan Sandoval, 18, told International Business Times.
The protesters were undeterred. “We have to fight fascism wherever it shows up,” Daniel Dunn, an 18-year-old student at Borough of Manhattan Community College who was pepper-sprayed, told IBT.
Dunn said he attended the rally to call out what they believed to be political corruption as well as racism.
He pulled out of the rally to receive medical attention for his eyes. “We were just marching," he said. "I saw some of my comrades getting pushed back, getting thrown.”
About 500 police officers attended the rally, an officer told IBT. The NYPD barricaded the streets and blocked off Fifth Avenue between 57th and 56th Street at about 2 p.m. That strip includes Trump Tower, where the protesters were planning to stop.
“When you approach these demonstrations they look tiny. When you’re in them, you feel large,” said Eve Silber, 52 of New York.
The main event was coordinated by the Cosmopolitan Antifascists, a political action group based in New York City. Trump’s “policies and type of speech has no place in this country, and certainly does not have a place in the city that Trump grew his empire in,” the organizers wrote on their Facebook page.
The group created an event on Facebook called “Rally Against Donald Trump.” Other local organizations also spread the word online and participated in Saturday’s event. “This was best-case-scenario turnout,” said Sean Larson, 27 of Brooklyn.
And yet, Trump has his supporters in New York City. A little after 11 a.m., Jim MacDonald, 66, of Flushing, New York, stood across from Trump Tower holding a sign that read “Vote Trump.”
MacDonald said he supported Trump’s immigration policies, in particular, his call to secure the border. “He’s promised a lot of things maybe he won’t come through 100 percent but he’s better than the other candidates. I believe you cannot have a country without a border and he recognizes that,” MacDonald told IBT.
“I’ve been motivated to come out today with four or five other people even though we know we may be at risk for our lives for doing this,” MacDonald said. “It doesn’t matter if the speech is not pleasant to you. It is free speech. You have the right to do it.”
MacDonald was joined by a few other Trump supporters. “Prosperity 4 law-abiders,” a sign read.
Others, some of them immigrants themselves, called out at them from the other side of the street. Ella Mendoza, a member of ICE-FREE NYC, a campaign to end Immigration and Customs Enforcement in NYC, held a sign that depicted Donald Trump as a pig and read “Cochino” — pig in Spanish.
“I’m here not just because of Trump. I’m here because we need to recognize that by calling out Trump … we’re calling out racism, we’re calling out bigotry, we’re calling out all of the hurt and all of the hate,” said Mendoza, 25. She immigrated from Peru when she was 12 and is in the United States illegally.
Others participants in the rally, promoted with the hashtag #CrushTrump on Twitter, were there specifically to campaign against Trump. “It makes me nauseous thinking about the fact he’s winning,” said Sivan Gordon-Buxbaum, 18, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, a freshman at Brooklyn College. “I’ve never felt the need to campaign against one person. I’ve only ever felt the need to campaign for a person. But at this point the public needs to be informed.”
The rally caught the attention of residents and tourists in the area. Alba Torrents, 53, was finishing a bike ride in Central Park with her friends, Ariana Garcia and Anna Garcia, when she came across the protest.
“I was glad to see the type of people that are here. I’m rooting for two candidates in the Democratic Party, either of the two of them will be fine for me,” Torrents said.
In addition to the signs and t-shirts against Trump and his policies, several attendees also had campaign buttons and shirts supporting Democratic contender Bernie Sanders. A rallying cry, “Take that f---er out” in regards to Trump inspired the crowd to cheer “Bernie Sanders.”
— Kerry Flynn (@kerrymflynn) March 19, 2016
“I agree with what Bernie says. I don’t know if what he wants to do is possible with healthcare and colleges, but I support it,” Gordon-Buxbaum said.
Some of the witnesses to the protest backed Trump. “I feel like a lot of the time he can be not nice in what he’s saying, but deep down I think some of his ideas could help America,” said Emily Levitt, 17 from Boca Raton, Florida.
Levitt’s friend Giselle Ortiz, 15, did not agree . “My parents are immigrants. I think he’s completely racist, and what he’s saying is immature,” Ortiz said.
Vitally Volfson, 54, who came to New York in 1980 from Russia, said he has long disliked Trump. “It would not be too far from the truth to say he was one of the most disliked, hated personas in New York in the 80s and 90s. He presented himself as one of the sharks of capitalism so nakedly,” said Volfson.
Volfson, a photographer, said one thing was clear to him after watching the march. “It’s a reflection that New York still stands for its value and hopefully we will prevail,” he said.
The New York protest occurred on the same day that demonstrators blocked a main road leading to a Trump rally in Arizona.