NEW YORK — It was a school night and well past Joshua Vega’s bedtime when most of the world learned that Donald Trump had won the 2016 election and would become the 45th president of the United States. The then-third grader said he didn’t get the news until the next morning when he asked his grandmother for permission to use her phone to look up the election results.
A year later, between chants of “No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA” and while holding a sign that read, “The Nightmare Must End: The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go!” the 9-year-old from Queens spoke as passionately as any adult in the crowd.
“I don’t want Donald Trump to keep making the bad decisions he’s making now,” said Vega, who attended the rally with his mother, Madison, and his two younger siblings. “I hope he can become a better president — or we’ll get someone better,” he added.
Vega was one of what organizers estimated to be about 1,500 (New York police estimated 300, according to Newsweek) who attended a rally and march on Saturday in New York City to call for an end to the Trump presidency. Protesters rallied in Times Square, then marched through the streets of Manhattan before ending with a second rally in Washington Square Park. Similar events were held across the country. Refuse Fascism, the group that organized the event, vowed protests will continue across the country until Trump is ousted.
“If this can work, we need millions of people in the streets, we need to awaken the people who are angry at the president and turn it into a movement,” said Jack, a 25-year-old student organizer with Refuse Fascism, as he welcomed young participants to the rally.
Jack, who prefered not to use his last name, said he hasn’t personally felt targeted by the Trump administration’s policies, but blames President Trump for letting his friends in Puerto Rico suffer after Hurricane Maria. He said other friends — even those who are in the country legally — are afraid to go home to other countries for Christmas because they don’t know if they’ll be able to return to the United States due to Trump’s attempts to implement and enforce a travel ban.
“I’m seeing my friends and family and people getting hurt — I can’t stand by on the sidelines,” he said.
Queens resident Brianna Hoobraj, 15, attended the rally on behalf of her 26-year-old brother, who couldn’t come.
“My brother has a disability and he [Trump] doesn’t like people with disabilities,” said Hoobraj, at the rally with a friend. In November 2015, then-candidate Trump mocked New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has arthrogryposis, a congenital joint condition.
Dismayed by attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, Peter Doss, a physician from Warren, New Jersey, brought his two children to the rally and march.
“It really pains me, what’s happening to health care in this country simply out of spite for a program that Obama wanted to put in place — there’s absolutely no policy justification for what’s happening,” said Doss as he helped his 9-year-old daughter Demiana make a sign to carry during the march.
Most, but not all, of those at the rally and march were there to protest the Trump presidency.
Fifteen-year-old Jonathan, a Queens resident who preferred his last name not be used, was one of about 20 loosely organized counter-protesters who paced around the perimeter of the Times Square rally and followed protesters through the streets of Manhattan to Washington Square Park.
“I’m pretty sure people have heard about the rumors of an antifa [anti-fascist] civil war — that’s not what’s really going on, at least not here in New York. Left-wing liberals, or however they want to call themselves, are more civilized here than in other areas,” Jonathan said. “Charlottesville isn’t going to happen here.
“Before the election people thought he’d never be able to win,” Jonathan said, adding that he supports Trump because of his never-give-up attitude.
Refuse Fascism organizers say they won’t give up either and plan to continue protesting until the Trump administration is ousted. Organizers like Jack say young people are crucial to their success.
“We need students involved — no mass protest movement can go without the students,” Jack said. Young adults will be affected the most by Trump’s policies, and he hopes to soon have young people organize high school and college walkouts, he said.
Like Jack, Doss is looking toward the future. Along with health care, he said he worries about what the Trump administration’s policies are doing to the environment.
“What’s happening at the EPA is absolutely disgraceful,” said Doss, referring to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s recent appointment of a scientific advisor who once said the air is “too clean for optimal health” and is reported to have said that children need to breath irritants in order to build up their immunity.
“I believe this is just absolute kleptocracy — it’s rule by corporations and rule for profit and with absolutely no consideration for the world that we’re leaving for our children,” said Doss, referring to the close relationship between the petrochemical industry and some of President Trump’s science appointees.
Pausing for a moment, he glanced down at a sad red face his daughter was drawing on her sign, at his son standing nearby and then out into the crowd.
“These are my children, this is the world they are going to inherit,” he said.
This story has been updated.
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