Last week I was in New York, had the Saturday free, and it was a lovely sunny day and so I decided to join the ‘Not my President’ march from Union Square up to Trump Tower. What was it like? And how was it different to the UK’s Brexit match in Hyde Park over the Summer?
So the result of the US presidential election was announced in the early hours of Wednesday morning and that very evening there was a march up to Trump Tower. An obvious end point. On Friday there was one too, probably one in-between on the Thursday too, but I went to the one march on the Saturday at noon, the day before I left to fly back to the UK.
A protester wearing their Guy Fawkes mask
The familiar vibe of protest and upset was present in both US/UK marches, but whereas the NYC march was organised, albeit not to the scale of the larger Hyde Park march, it felt more organic and less regimented and controlled. We gathered in Union Square on 14th Street, which was unfortunately trying to host its weekend food market, so immediately space was at a premium. People displayed placards, handed out leaflets, and a guy with a megaphone organised the masses as they arrived, but suddenly after 45 minutes without any warning the crowd shouted “let’s march!” and so they did.
There was a pre-organised timetable, but that went out the window, and we were off! NYPD police officers were present but were fairly inconspicuous, unlike in the UK march where I sensed far more police in hi-vis. Photographers lined the NYC route but “funny” signs were few and far between. I saw lots mentioning ‘Unity’, ‘Stronger Together’ (not unlike Brexit) and ‘Love Trumps Hate, and as I felt like getting involved I made my own sign the night before too, shamelessly borrowing the idea from a sign I’d seen in the UK.
A reference to some of Trump’s “Locker room” talk
A lot of people spotted it and liked it, with only a couple of American guys not “getting it”. I explained it was a “British thing” and it was simply a bit ironic … don’t you I think? They seemed satisfied with my answer but still didn’t appear to fully get it!
However I soon realised there’s a reason that people make thicker cardboard signs on sticks, and that’s because your shoulders get really tired after a while when you’re holding a floppy sign above your head with both hands for more than a few minutes at a time! So next time I’ll incorporate a wooden stick in my design, although the jagged brown tape (rather than a marker pen) worked rather well and meant I could have spelt out something else if I’d wanted too.
Walking up 5th Ave with the stars and stripes in the sunshine
I diverted off for lunch in Go Chloe’s to get a nice burger with a friend before resuming once more once they’d already arrived just past 56th street on 5th Ave, the block that contains Trump Tower. It was getting towards sunset at this point so we stayed for a while, tried to get as close as we could to the Tower itself, eddying in a circle in the crowd as everybody got a turn to get to the far end, up as far as the police barriers. There were a small handful of Trump supporters but they really were in the minority. I saw more Brexit supporters at the Brexit event.
My favorite chants for the day, of which there were many, included:
“Not my President, not my President”
“My body my choice [sung by girls], her body her choice [sung by boys]”.
“Immigrants are welcome here, no hate, no fear!” (below)
I completely believed it when I joined in with the “Not my President” chants as he’s “not my president [elect]” with me being from the UK. Still I’ve got to put up with Theresa May instead! Later that evening I checked out the Instagram feeds for Union Square and found myself in a few pictures, but luckily/unluckily wasn’t fortunate enough to be selected for Buzzfeed’s 28 signs from Trump protests. Maybe a good thing as I hadn’t been that original and as a friend pointed out, had been protesting against democracy. He had a point. Everybody was aware of the popular vote/electoral vote rules before the contest started. Maybe the greatest democracy in the world needs to take a look at the system before the next election in 4 years’ time.
An NYPD cop high-fiving the crowd
Lastly here’s the guy who did go viral with this great sign.
One of the best signs of the day – Twitter: @AlexMLeo
So it was a nice atmosphere, with many signs, no trouble, and showed that a lot of Americans aren’t pleased with the outcome. Like Brexit, maybe we’ll soon hear more about the number of people who didn’t bother voting, and if they had, they could have made all the difference and got Hillary in instead. Similarly like Brexit it’ll hopefully work out in the end with everybody from both sides getting together to try to “make America great again”.