What a difference 50 years makes – from the
Stonewall Uprising when the forces of government were marshaled against the gay
and lesbian community, to today, when government officials and even members of
New York City’s Police Department, flocked to take part in WorldPride NYC 2019,
the largest Pride event in history.
US State Senator Charles Schumer, with his familiar
bullhorn, declared,, “I was the first US Senator to march, and I won’t be the
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, revved up the crowd
to chant “ERA, ERA” and Congressmembers Jerry Nadler and Nydia Velazquez joined
New York State officials were there in force,
including Governor Andrew Cuomo, who appropriately crowed about the gains a
progressive legislature accomplished, NYS’s first black woman Attorney General
Leticia James, Comptroller Thom DiNapoli, and a score of state senators and
Governor Cuomo did not come empty-handed:
he used the occasion to sign into law legislation banning the gay
and trans panic legal defense (S3293/A2707), fulfilling his pledge
to ensure nobody uses this abhorrent legal defense strategy in the State
of New York. The Governor signed the measure, a key component of his 2019
Justice Agenda, on WorldPride and the 50th anniversary of the
Stonewall uprising. The Governor also vowed to double down next legislative
session on his campaign to legalize gestational surrogacy, which the Assembly
failed to take up this year.
and trans panic defense is essentially a codification of homophobia
and transphobia, and it is repugnant to our values of equality and
inclusion,” Governor Cuomo said at a press
conference on the street before joining the parade. “This defense strategy
isn’t just offensive – it also sends a dangerous message that violence toward
LGBTQ people is somehow OK. It’s not, and today we’re sending this noxious
legal tool to the dustbin of history where it belongs.”
NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio, who is running for the
Democratic Nomination for president, marched with the city’s First Lady Chirlane McCray.There were also the
NYC Comptroller Scott M. Stringer with his family, Public Advocate Jumaane D.
Williams, members of the City Council including Speaker Corey Johnson,
There were contingents from just about every city agency, from Sanitation to Transportation, the Department of Social Services, to the Bar Association and teachers.
“In the month of June,
we celebrated 50 years of Pride here in New York State and around the
world,” stated New York’s Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul. “We marched in
parades from Buffalo to Albany, and finished the month with World Pride in New
York City this past weekend.
“We celebrated how far
the LGBTQ+ community has come since the Stonewall Uprising in 1969, and
reflected on the progress we still have to make.
legislative session over the last six months, we made history. GENDA is now the
law of the land, ensuring permanent protections for transgender New Yorkers.
Young people are now protected from the barbaric practice of conversion
therapy. Finally, with the stroke of a pen, we ended the legalized hatred that
was once allowed by the gay and trans ‘panic’ defense.
“I am always proud to
stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community and continue the fight for
They came together in celebration, not anger or fear. The common thread among the 150,000 who marched, coming from around the world and across the country, and the estimated 2.5 million who watched along the WorldPride NYC 2019 parade route: Free to be me.
The parade, which took eight hours to complete and was
estimated to be the largest Pride event in history, was particularly poignant,
honoring the 50th anniversary since the Stonewall Uprising, which
are considered the trigger to the modern LGBTQ movement.
Jim Foray, among the Grand Marshals at the parade, was there
that night. He was living just a block away and recalled the Stonewall as a
“sleazy bar where we were grateful and exploited.” The bar, reputedly owned by
the Mafia, was regularly raided by the police.
What a difference 50 years has made, noted Julian Sanjivan,
NYC Pride March Director. “They had no way of knowing what the next 50 years
would bring, no way to know they were starting a global movement, changing
hearts and minds everywhere.” And who could have expected an openly gay and
married man, a mayor from South Bend, Indiana, Peter Buttigieg, running for
Fear and loathing has given way to pride and joy.
Five Grand Marshals lead both the 50th NYC Pride March: the cast of POSE, represented by Dominique Jackson (Elektra), Indya Moore (Angel), and MJ Rodriguez (Blanca); Phyll Opoku-Gyimah; Gay Liberation Front; The Trevor Project and Monica Helms.
Phyll Opoku-Gyimah is the nucleus of the award-winning
celebration and protest that is UK Black Pride. Widely known as Lady Phyll –
partly due to her decision to reject an MBE in the New Year’s Honours’ list, to
protest Britain’s role in formulating anti-LGBTQ+ penal codes across its empire
– she is a senior official at the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) trade
union as the Head of Equality and Learning. She’s a community builder and
organizer; a Kaleidoscope Trust Trustee; an Albert Kennedy Trust patron; Diva
Magazine columnist, and public speaker focusing on race, gender, sexuality and
Gay Liberation Front was the very first LGBTQ activist
organization formed after the Stonewall Rebellion. The courageous members of
GLF fought to give political shape and direction to a whole new generation of
LGBTQ militancy that spread with unprecedented vigor and impact across the
nation and the world.
The Trevor Project is the world’s largest suicide prevention
and crisis intervention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender,
queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) young people. The organization works to save
young lives by providing support through free and confidential programs,
including TrevorLifeline, TrevorText, and TrevorChat. They also run
TrevorSpace, the world’s largest safe space social networking site for LGBTQ
youth, and operate innovative education, research, and advocacy programs.
Monica Helms is a transgender activist, author, and veteran
of the United States Navy, having served on two submarines. She is also the
creator of the Transgender Pride Flag, in 1999, and subsequently donated the
original flag to the Smithsonian Institution in 2014.
It was indeed a demonstration of world pride – there were
marchers from Copenhagen, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Portugal,
Australia, Holland, and so many other places.
American cities and states were represented as well, from
coast to coast and in between – from Palm Beach and Orlando to Palm Springs,
San Francisco and Venice (California), Austin to Washington DC, Brooklyn,
Boston, even Native American tribes.
Here are highlights from the WorldPride NYC 2019:
A clear sign of the changing times was the outpouring of
elected and government officials who joined the march. New York State Governor
Andrew Cuomo used the occasion to sign into law legislation banning the gay
and trans panic legal defense, a key component of his 2019 Justice
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo did
not come empty-handed to the WorldPride NYC 2019 parade, perhaps the largest
LGBTQIA+ Pride event in history: Cuomo used the occasion to sign into law legislation banning the gay
and trans panic legal defense (S3293/A2707), fulfilling his pledge
to ensure nobody uses this abhorrent legal defense strategy in the State
of New York. The Governor signed the measure, a key component of his 2019
Justice Agenda, on WorldPride and the 50th anniversary of the
Stonewall uprising. The Governor also vowed to double down next legislative
session on his campaign to legalize gestational surrogacy, which the Assembly
failed to take up this year.
“The gay and trans panic defense is essentially a
codification of homophobia and transphobia, and it is repugnant to our values
of equality and inclusion,” Governor Cuomo said at a press
conference on the street before joining the parade. “This
defense strategy isn’t just offensive – it also sends a dangerous message that
violence toward LGBTQ people is somehow OK. It’s not, and today we’re sending
this noxious legal tool to the dustbin of history where it belongs.”
At a press conference before joining the parade, Governor Cuomo said, “What a great, great day
this is. New York is so proud. New York is so, so, so proud to
“New Yorkers are just
New Yorkers. Look, all New Yorkers should be very proud because New York has
always been the home of the LGBTQ equality movement, always. It all started
here. It started at Stonewall, it started when we hosted the first Pride Day
ever. And we’ve kept that legacy alive. This is the leading State in the United
States of America for LGBTQ equality. And we don’t just say it, we do it. We
prove it here in New York.
“What was the first
state to address AIDS and announce the goal of ending AIDS as an epidemic? New
York. What was the first state to end discrimination against transgender
people? New York. What was the first big state to pass marriage equality
and send a message across the nation? New York. What was the first state
to pass GENDA and end discrimination against transgender people? New York.
What was the first state to ban conversion therapy? New York.
“And today, we’re going
to sign a bill that ends the codification of homophobia. Because we have now as
a law in this state, something called the gay and trans panic
defense. That a person can argue – they were so emotionally disturbed when they
found out a person was gay or trans that that is actually a
justification or an excuse for murder. Not in this state. We are going to – not
in this state. Not in this state. Not in this state. Not in this state. Not in
this state. And we are going to end the gay and transpanic defense and we
are going to do it right now. I will sign this now and end this law. It is now
York. Let’s lead once again.”
The gay and trans panic defenses allow those accused of violent
crimes against LGBTQ people to receive a lesser sentence, and in some cases,
avoid conviction, by placing the blame on a victim’s sexual orientation or
gender identity. The passage of this bill would close a loophole in state law
that currently allows individuals to use the gay and trans panic
defenses after attacking another person based upon a perception, or discovery
of, that victim’s gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
Brad Hoylman said,”By banning the so-called gay and trans
panic defense, New York is sending a message to prosecutors, defense attorneys,
juries and judges that a victim’s LGBTQ identity shouldn’t be weaponized
against them. I’m proud to be a member of a legislature that protects the
rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers and thank Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins
and Assemblymember O’Donnell for their leadership on this critical
issue. As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, I am extremely
grateful to Governor Cuomo for signing this critical piece of legislation into
law and look forward to continuing to work with him to make New York a more
inclusive, equitable home for the LGBTQ community.”
“In 2013, my daughter Islan was killed in Harlem for being who she was.
Her attacker used the discriminatory ‘trans panic’ defense. I am so grateful
that New York is banning this legislation so that no mother has to go through
this again. We must keep fighting so that all trans people
can live free from violence and discrimination. Thank you to Governor
Cuomo for advocating tirelessly for this bill and for signing it into law
“Banning the “gay
and trans panic” defense in New York is an important and long
overdue step toward treating the LGBTQ community equitably,” Ethan Rice, Senior Attorney,
Fair Courts Project at Lambda Legal. “LGBTQ people in New York should never have to experience
violence. When it happens, LGBTQ people certainly should not be faced with
blame for this violence. These “defenses” have no place in our
justice system. Lambda Legal commends the Governor for signing this bill
today and for his ongoing advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQ community.”
Executive Director of NYC’s LGBT Community Center said, “New York State government has
taken another great step in the right direction, legally halting some enduring
elements of homophobia and transphobia ingrained in our society. After
establishing marriage equality, passing GENDA and ending conversion therapy in
our state, Governor Cuomo showed that he is not done fighting for LGBTQ
equality, and neither are we. We thank him for taking the gay
and trans panic defense out of New York’s court system and for his
commitment to equal rights for all people.”
individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender as a defense for
violent behavior is abhorrent and will not stand in the State of New York,” Harlem Pride and The NYC Black and Latino
LGBTQ Coalition said. “We applaud Governor Cuomo for his leadership and
dedication to protecting the LGBTQ community and closing the legal loophole
keeping this archaic practice in place.”
Chacon, president of the Latino Commission on AIDS and founder of Hispanic
Health Network said,”As we celebrate LGBT Pride and the
50th Anniversary of the Stonewall uprising we recognize that outlawing the
gay and trans panic defense is long overdue in New York. We
appreciate that this legislation will be signed to ensure this can never happen
again and that people impacted by homophobia and transphobia are no longer
taking the blame for this antiquated loophole. We thank Governor Cuomo for
advancing this important issue and I look forward to him signing this law to
increase protections for the LGBTQ community.”
Rod Townsend, Community Leader said, “A person’s gender identity or sexual orientation is never a justifiable reason for violent attack, and Governor Cuomo closes the loophole in state law that allowed for it in cases of first degree murder today. We look forward to seeing justice for individuals impacted by these crime and will fight to further limit the use of this appalling “blame the victim” strategy in cases of violence against LGBTQ people everywhere.”
Babine, Director of Policy & Programs at the New York Transgender
Advocacy Group said,”Banning the ‘gay
and trans panic’ defense was a huge win for the LGBTQI community,
especially for our Transgender, Gender-Non-Conforming, & Non-Binary
siblings. This year alone, ten Transgender women of color have been found
dead, one right here in New York. The New York Transgender Advocacy Group
stands with pride next to Governor Cuomo as he continues to be a champion for
the LGBTQI community here in New York State.”
Malloy, Executive Director, Rockland County Pride Center said, “New Yorkers do not tolerate hate. We are
a state of love and inclusion, and hold firm to our belief in equality for
every person. The fact that there ever was a legal defense for crimes committed
against the LGBTQ community, specifically based on their actual or perceived
gender identity or sexual orientation is disgusting. Thank you to Governor
Cuomo for his leadership in ending this abhorrent law, and for always speaking
up and protecting LGBTQ New Yorkers.”
Executive Director, Adirondack North Country Gender Alliance said,”New York State prides itself on being an inclusive,
progressive state, where every person can feel safe and welcome. With
his work to end the gay and trans panic defense, Governor Cuomo
continues to ensure that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or
gender identity, receives equal protection under New York
State law. I wish to personally thank Governor Cuomo, on behalf
of residents in the Adirondack North Country for
his relentless work to defend the rights of all who call this
beautiful state our home.”
Christopher Goodwin, Supervisor of The MOCHA Center Rochester said, “We at The MOCHA Center and Trillium Health applaud Governor Cuomo for taking swift, progressive action to protect and uphold the rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers. Thanks to his efforts, a dangerous loophole rooted in hate has been erased from our criminal justice system. The gay and trans panic defense should never have been allowed. LGBTQ New Yorkers are grateful that we can now feel safer knowing that we are one step closer to having our lives equally valued and represented under the law.”
Jeff Rindler, Executive Director, Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center said, “This revision to our legal system has been long overdue. The human rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers are non-negotiable, and now this hateful excuse will no longer be a permissible defense for homophobic and transphobic hate crimes, which are on the rise. For transgender women of color who experience higher rates of violence, this law is the next step in solidifying protections for our community. I applaud and thankGovernor Cuomo and all the advocates and legislators who worked tirelessly to pass this legislation.”
CEO, GMHC said, “The beginning of the Stonewall rebellion was in New York
City and it was in reaction to hate-fueled actions. Fifty years have passed
since the beginning of our LGBT rights movement and New York has been a model
for LGBT equality, setting a national standard that the rest of the country
must follow. We thank Governor Cuomo for closing a loophole which permitted the
murder of gay and trans New Yorkers due to their perceived sexual
orientation or gender identity. This ensures that justice will be served for LGBTQ
New Yorkers who are the victims of homophobia and transphobia.”
Kristen Prata Browde,
Board President, LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York and
Co-Chair Board of Directors, National Trans Bar Association said,”This shows the kind of change that good government can and
should bring. Banning the trans and gay panic defense is a huge step
towards equality for LGBTQ New Yorkers. Governor Cuomo not only recognized the
absurdity of giving someone a lesser sentence or even a pass after murdering
someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, he fought hard
for the ban. As the Governor signs the bill he is once again showing that New
York truly is a beacon to the world and to every LGBTQ person.”
The Governor also released a new video for social media featuring
Delores Nettles, the mother of Islan Nettles, a transgender woman who
was brutally murdered in Harlem in 2013 and whose assailant used the gay
and trans panic legal defense in court. Watch the video here.
Bernie Sanders held his first major rally of his 2020 campaign for president on the campus of Brooklyn College, just a few miles from where he grew up in a 3 ½-room rent-controlled apartment, and where he attended his first year of college. As many as 7,000 people crammed in to see him on Saturday, March 2 – like the 2016 campaign, mostly young people. Judging by the enthusiasm, The Burn is back.
While the agenda now has become pretty standard fare
for all the Democrats running for President – universal health care, lower drug
prices, gun safety, immigration reform, climate action – and while others have
emphasized the need to restore civility to political discourse (in contrast to
the crass vitriol that constantly spews from Trump), what was decidedly
different about Bernie is his willingness to name names, to take on the
corporatists and the billionaires: Amazon and Jeff Bezos, Netflix, Disney,
In some ways, Bernie, while taking credit for the
leftward shift of the Democrats’ platform, needs to stand out – and this is his
way. He also seems intent to correct any missteps from the 2016 campaign. This
time around he is emphasizing his humble origins whose father migrated from
Poland on his own at age 17 with “not 5 cents in his pocket, not speaking
English” to escape crushing poverty and anti-Semitism and make a better life.
He described a hard-scrabble life, appreciating full well the stress and
anxiety of 800,000 government workers furloughed by the record-long Trump shutdown,
who live paycheck to paycheck, at the mercy of employers.
The campaign emphasized his early years as an activist, protesting against housing discrimination and horrible public schools for Chicago’s black children – but he was too modest during the 2016 to focus much attention on his early activism on behalf of civil rights. This time around, Nina Turner, who heads Our Revolution, put Bernie on the same pedestal as Martin Luther King, Jr., and journalist/activist Shaun King connected him with Black Lives Matter.
This time, Sanders also made certain to include issues that concern women on a long “to do” list: child care and women’s reproductive rights.
Taking to the podium to introduce her husband, Jane
Sanders declared, “I’m honored to be his wife – that might not be politically
correct to say, but it’s one of my greatest honors of my life.”
She added, “Today is only the beginning. not a moment, but a movement.”
But as Bernie is forced to differentiate himself
from the rest of the dozens of Democrats who are running, most of whom are
championing the same agenda, he has to go even further than he did, and that may
well turn off centrists, moderates and independents, and fall right into the
hands of Trump and his minions who are made to turn against the notion of
affordable, accessible health care and pharmaceuticals as some kind of Communist
takeover. Imagine, as Trump told CPAC, “taking away private insurance from 180
million people,” banning beef, airplanes, indeed, individual liberty.
And don’t Democrats want as their #1 priority to
have a candidate who can beat Trump? Which means not just the hard-left and
youth who still only vote at a dismal 39% rate and are easily made too peeved
to bother, but centrists, moderates, independents, who might be put off by
being branded a Socialist and not the European-style Democratic Socialist
(which have universal health care, parental leave, child care) but the
Venezuelan kind, especially with such radical talk of a federally guaranteed
job and a Green New Deal?
“Every card carrying American
who loves their Social Security, public schools, roads, police, and fire services
will love their Medicare for All. Labels don’t define us, we come together
around issues – Medicare for All; free college,” a campaign worker noted.
“Bernie believes another
world is possible, that in a modern developed world, people don’t die for lack
of access to medical care. The issues are not blue or red, they are human
In actuality, the
Republicans have portrayed every liberal as a Socialist with images of work
camps and everyone collecting the same wage – including Obama, Hillary Clinton,
Why choose Sanders? “He’s
been consistent for 30 years. He’s been there for 30 years and knows where the next
remark to a young fellow as we are crammed into a subway car after Bernie’s
rally at Brooklyn College, how it is that with 30 years in Congress, Sanders
has very little to show in the way of accomplishing the lofty goals he set out
in 2016 and again for his 2020 campaign, and question how he would he be more
successful as a president, given the obstructions Obama faced from a Republican
minority willing to use ruthless tactics. His reply? Sanders’ success has been
to inspire a revolution at the grassroots – look at what has happened in
localities and at the state level. He alone among the Democrats who now all
champion the same ideals of social, political, economic and environmental
justice, has inspired such local activism.
Here are highlights from Sanders’ speech:
“Thank you for being part of the revolution, part of
the campaign that will not just win the Democratic nomination and defeat Trump,
the most dangerous president in modern American history, but with your help,
will transform the country and finally create an economy and a government which
works for all.
“The underlying principle of government will not be
greed, hatred, racism, sexism, homophobia, religious bigotry, tax breaks for
billionaires and efforts to take millions off health care. This campaign will
end all that.
“The principles of our government are based on
justice: economic, social, racial, environmental justice. Tell the insurance companies we will have
Medicare for All, say to Pharmaceutical companies you will no longer charge the
highest prices in world for medicines people desperately need. Your greed will
“We will raise the minimum wage to at least $15,
rebuild infrastructure, and when we do, we will create up to 13 million decent
“We will have quality affordable child care…. we will
make public colleges and universities tuition free.
“We say to seniors, you can’t survive on $14,000 Social
Security; Republicans want to cut Social Security Benefits: we will raise it.
“We say to Trump and the fossil fuel industry:
climate change is not a hoax, but an existential threat to the entire planet.
We will transform away from fossil fuel into energy efficiency and sustainable energy,
and when we do that, we will create millions of good paying jobs.
“All of us have moral responsibility to make sure
the planet we leave our kids, our grandkids, is healthy and habitable.
”We say to the prison-industrial complex (boo), we
are going to achieve real criminal justice reform. We will end the
international embarrassment of having more people in jail than any other – take
the $80 billion a year and invest in jobs and education instead. No more
private prisons, no more profiteering form locking people up.
“No more war on drugs or keeping people in jail
because too poor to afford cash bail.
“We will have real criminal justice reform –people
have records for possessing marijuana
but not one Wall Street executive went to jail for destroying the economy in
2008. Instead, they got a $1 trillion bailout (boo).
“Instead of deporting undocumented immigrants, we
will pass comprehensive immigration reform and provide a path to citizenship,
legal status for 1.8 million DACA-eligible recipients. We will develop a humane
border policy for those who seek asylum – no longer snatch babies from the arms
of their mothers.
“We say to the 1% and the large profitable corporations in America, under a Sanders Administration, you’re not getting more tax breaks (big cheers). We will end their tax breaks, loopholes, and they will start paying their fair share; we will end the loopholes where Amazon, Netflix, General Motors pay nothing in federal tax, where corporations and billionaires stash money in the Caymans and other tax havens.
“We will end the military industrial complex. We won’t spend $700 billion – more than the top 10 nations combined spend. Instead, we will invest in affordable housing, public education, invest in our crumbling infrastructure. No more major investment in never-ending wars.
“Trump wants to divide us by skin color, where we
were born, gender, religion, sexual orientation. What we are about is doing the
opposite: bring people together – black, white, Latino, Asian, young, old, men,
women, native, immigrant, we are together.
“As return to where I was born, as I launch my
campaign for president, you deserve to know where I came from, the values I
developed… I grew up a few miles from here on Kings Highway, in a 3 ½ room
rent-controlled apartment. My father was a paint salesman who never made much
money; my mother raised the two of us. I learned about immigration from my
father who came from Poland at age 17 without 5 cents in his pocket and no
English, to escape crushing poverty and widespread anti-Semitism. His entire
family was wiped out by Hitler. Coming from a lower middle class family, I will
never forget how the lack of money always causes stress in family. My mother’s
dream was to move out of rent control apartment to a home of her own. She died
young and never saw that dream.
“I came from a family that struggled. That
influenced my life, my values. I know where I came from and will never forget.
“Unlike Trump who shut down government, left 800,000
employees without money to pay their bills, I know what it is like to live in a
family that lives paycheck to paycheck.
“I didn’t have a father who gave me a $200,000
allowance when I was three years old – my allowance was 25 cents a week. But I
had something more valuable – a role model of a father with courage to journey
across an ocean with no money, to start a better life.
“I didn’t come from a family of privilege, who
entertained people on TV by saying ‘You’re fired.’ I came from a family which
understood the frightening power of employers. I didn’t attend an elite private
school, I was educated in public schoo0ls in Brooklyn.
“I didn’t build a corporate empire based on housing
discrimination. I protested against housing discrimination. One of my proudest moments
was joining the March on Washington with Martin Luther King.
“The last two years and before, you, I and millions,
fought for justice in every part of society. Had some success against billionaires
who attack unions, slash wages. We succeeded in raising wages to $15 across
country – forced Amazon, Disney to do the same.
“We stood with teachers across country who went out
on strike to fight for better schools.
“The forces of militarism kept us engaged in war. We
fought back and for first time in 45 years, used the War Powers Act to end the
Saudi-fueled war in Yemen.
“We fought to end the war on drugs, to get states to
decriminalize marijuana possession and we are beginning to see records being
“We won some victories but clearly have a long long
way to go.
“Because of the work done, we are on the brink of
not just winning election but transforming our country.
“When we are
in the White House, we will enact a federal jobs guarantee.
“We will attack the problem of urban gentrification
and build affordable housing this country desperately needs.
“We will end the decline of rural America – so young
people in rural America have decent jobs and can remain in their communities. We
will reopen rural hospitals.
“We will end the epidemic of gun violence, pass
commonsense gun safety legislation.
“We will address national, racial disparity of
wealth, root out institutional racism wherever it exists.
“We will end the cowardly outrage of voter
suppression, and make it easier to vote.
“We will protect a woman’s right to control her own
body – that is a woman’s right, not federal, state, local government.
“Make no mistake, the struggle is not just about
defeating Trump but taking an incredibly powerful institutions that control
economy and political life of the nation: Wall Street, insurance companies,
drug companies, the military-industrial complex, the prison-industrial complex,
the fossil fuel industry and corrupt campaign finance system that enables billionaires
to buy elections.
“Brothers and sisters, we have enormous amount of
work ahead. The path forward is not easy.
“Wealthy and powerful elites will do all they can to
defend their financial interests, and have unlimited money. But we have the
“This is what I believe: if we don’t allow Trump to
divide us, if we stand together – not blue states, red – but as working people
believing in justice and human dignity, love and compassion, the future of this
country is extraordinary and nothing we will not be able to accomplish.”
Tens of thousands took to the streets of New York City on Saturday, January 19, 2019 for the third annual Women’s March organized by the Women’s March Alliance, calling for action on a Woman’s Agenda that encompasses everything from pay parity, paid parental leave and reproductive freedom, to immigration reform, gun violence prevention, climate action, criminal justice reform – in other words, the gamut of social, political, environmental and economic justice. (See also With Cry of ‘Your Voice Your Power,’ Alliance Mounts 3rd Annual Women’s March on NYC Jan. 19)
The marchers got particularly animated outside of
Trump Tower Hotel on Central Park West, chanting “Shame, Shame, Shame,”
extending a finger, and waving placards calling for “Indict, Impeach, Imprison.”
The protesters use their bodies as message boards. Here are highlights:
Women’s March Alliance, the official organizer of the March on NYC since 2017, will stage its third annual march on Saturday, January 19. Line up begins at 10 a.m. with the march kicking off at 11 a.m. on 61st Street and Central Park West (main entrance on 72nd and Columbus). The march, which is expected to draw 100,000 participants, will run along Central Park West south around Columbus Circle, east on 59th Street then south on 6th Avenue.
The theme for this year’s Woman’s March, taking place in New York City on Saturday Jan 19, could well be “I am woman. Hear me roar,” especially after the dramatic successes culminating in the 2018 elections that saw a record number of women running for office and elected – women now one-fourth of Congress, and there are four more women governors.
And in New York, the
successful takeover of the Senate gives new hope for a progressive agenda,
topped with the Women’s Reproductive Health Act.
But the Women’s March
Alliance organizers worry that sheer exhaustion and complacency might rightly
set in after all that happened to produce the success of 2018, but that there still so much work to be
done, not the least is: Now you have heard our roar, act.
“We want to make sure we don’t
stop fighting. We are half way there. We can’t stop now. We have to move
forward,” said Katherine Siemionko, founder and president of Women’s March
Alliance. “The theme for the march
is ‘Your Voice Your Power.’ We have seen what happened in 2018 Elections. New York cannot stand back. New
York leads nation in progress.” (The actual hashtag for the march is #YourVoiceYourPower)
Indeed, that there is still
so much work to be done is reflected in the cavalier attitude Trump and
Republicans have to shutting down government, with no clue and no care of the
ramifications on women and families that go beyond withholding pay to 800,000
federal workers as well as contractors,from food safety to food stamps, from
mortgages to small business loans, from housing vouchers to veterans benefits. They
even stood by while the Violence Against Women Act expired.
And then there is the
unbelievable cruelty being inflicted on millions of families across the nation
who may have an undocumented immigrant among them but American citizen spouse
or children, or the four million Dreamers whose lives are in limbo. Think of
the desperate migrants as the Trump Administration tries to overturn domestic
violence and gang violence as a basis for asylum; the forced separation of
families; the families of tens of thousands of migrants and refugees here for
decades under Temporary Protected Status who have been told they will be
deported. Think of the families ripped apart. That’s a woman’s issue, too.
Now Trump is threatening
to declare a national emergency in order to take funds allocated for rebuilding
communities devastated by climate disasters in Puerto Rico afflicted by Maria,
in California after the wildfires, in Florida and South Carolina after Michael.
And then there is the humanitarian crisis created by Trump’s anti-immigrant
policy that has led to two children dying while in US custody, and hundreds of
children rendered orphans, thousands more traumatized by their condition.
But this is New York
State, and thankfully, there is finally full control by Democrats. On January
22, the 46th anniversary of Roe v Wade, the State Legislature is
expected to pass the Reproductive Health Act, strengthening abortion access by
codifying the principles of Roe v. Wade in state law, after 12
years of trying but failing. But this action cannot be taken for granted. There
is still need to push the politicians to act –and not take such landmark for
This is no time to be
complacent – the regressive forces are not complacent, they are seizing the opportunity of a hard-religious right
majority on the Supreme Court, to push through personhood amendments that
essentially give more rights to a fetus than the mother carrying it. Women have
actually been prosecuted for miscarrying and such laws could be applied to
punish women for behaviors that are deemed harmful to a fetus. Essentially,
women would become slaves of the state, not considered entitled to the same
right of self-determination as a man. Big Brother doesn’t begin to describe
So this year’s march has
its own urgency: to cement and recommit, to make sure that the electeds carry
out what could be called a woman’s agenda but encompasses so much because women’s
issues are so broad.
Here’s a partial list:
gun violence prevention, universal health care, universal pre-K, affordable
college, climate action and environmental justice, immigration reform, pay
equity, parental leave, criminal justice reform… Way too many to fit into a
soundbite, a poster or a tweet.
But if you still need a
motivation, consider this: the 2020 presidential election is already underway,
and the way women candidates for office are once again being evaluated
according to a different standard (“likeability,” “shrill”).
The danger of
complacency needs to be recalled: that’s what happened in 2016, when too many believed
that Hillary Clinton becoming the first woman to head a major party ticket
meant that America had entered a post-feminist era, just as Obama’s election
was supposedly a post-racist era. Okay to stay home out of some manufactured
outrage, just because you could; okay to throw a vote away on an independent
candidate, because of course the most qualified candidate, who stood for gender
rights, civil rights, criminal justice, environmental justice, economic
justice, would win. We saw how that went.
The march, which will
include opportunities to register to vote (and local elections in 2019 are
important), is a call to action to get things done while we have the
“honeymoon” of the new electeds and the fear of God in the incumbents – because
they think they can do anything they want and ignore the voices of 2018 because
the electorate won’t remember in 2020.
It is important, as
well, to keep the networks and the alliances intact, for the affirmation and
validation that the marchers give to one another. And because 2020 is right
around the corner.
Indeed, the greatest
threat to the Women’s movement is complacency (and fatigue) after the hard-won
victories of 2018.
“We must be fearful that
people have become comfortable, because that’s what happened in 2016 – we were
the popular vote, we still are the popular vote, we don’t want to get
comfortable and let the crazy seem like the status quo & normal,” said
Freedom Shannon, a member of the board of WMA which describes itself as “a nonprofit alliance of human rights
supporters who seek to close the social, political and economic gender divide.”
“We are changing what it
means to be a woman in our society. We have marched to being one in five in Congress,
but we need to come out January 19 to honor those who have come before us, to
show those in countries that cannot assemble, what democracy looks like, and
pave the way for future generations,” Shannon said. “On January 19, we will unify our voices so we amplify enough to be
heard by the people in power and soften their hearts so they can act without
The organizers at a
press conference introducing the event stressed that WMA is completely separate
from Womens March Inc. which organized the Washington March in 2017 and is
holding a rally in New York City also on January 19. That organization raised
controversy of being anti-Semitic when leaders expressed support for Louis
Siemionko noted “We
are a local grassroots team of volunteers hosting this event for the third year
in a row, and we do not have nor have we ever had an association with Women’s
March, Inc. or its founders.”
She continued, “Our mission is to include and advance women regardless of
faith, sexual identity and preference, race, cultural and religious background
or political affiliation.”
Siemionko was firm on
insisting that WMA is inclusive, and that like all the other sister marches
that took place in 2017 and 2018 in cities across the nation, all grew
organically, as local grassroots organizations reflecting their communities.
She stressed how WMA
went out of its way to accommodate the Jewish community, including organizing
the march so it would start within walking distance of a large segment of the community
on the Upper West Side. “We wanted to honor those Jews who want to honor Sabbath without taking public
transportation, but can march to support women’s rights.” In addition,
Siemionko will be participating in a panel on January 17 at the Stephen Wise
“The confusion happened
when Womens March Inc, the official march of DC, decided to break ground here
in NYC. Unfortunately that happened at time when irresponsible wording was used
to insult different communities.
“One of the reasons we
became part of WMA since its inception is that anti-Semitism, racial discrimination,
LGBT discrimination had no place here, especially in New York City, the most
diverse place in the nation, in the world,” said Debra Dixon Anderson, director
of operations of the New York City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and a WMA board
member, “and we appreciate all different walks of life.”
WMA is the only
organization that has a permit from New York City for a march on January 19.
Enter at 72nd
Street to Central Park West, or enter from Central Park. There will be a
15-minute kickoff at 11 am (not a rally), then the march will get underway at
11:15, go south past Columbus Circle, east on 59, then south to 44 Street.
Check the site for details.
There will be a female Indian chief to bless the march, female drum bands, brass bands, acrobats, DJs, and activists.
In conjunction with
the event, people will have a chance to see “Eyes of the World,” a giant, collaborative mosaic, 5 ft tall and
18 feet wide, produced by thousands of contributors since the first Women’s
March on New York City in 2017. that is on view at the Newburger Gallery in the
lobby of SUNY Optometry (33 West 42nd Street), across from Bryant
Park, noon to 9 pm.
“’Eyes of the World’ is
a tangible and permanent reminder to the United States government that our eyes
are constantly watching to ensure all policies embody human rights, advance
civil rights, and promote the highest degree of equality,” write Joanne and
Bruce Hunter, artists and creators of public art.
The message of the 2019 Women’s March should be: We won. Now act.
The Women’s March the day after Trump’s Inauguration in January 2017, in Washington and across America, was the largest day of protest in American history; subsequent protests throughout his tenure – for climate action, gun reform, immigrants – have also been massive.
The Women’s Movement has been rekindled with the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation to the Supreme Court.
Trump has signaled he has had enough of protest. He prefers what Putin and Kim Jong-un have: a way of suppressing all opposition, be it a free press or protest.
It filters down from Trump (or from Fox to Trump) to the Republican talking heads eerily mimicking the same phrases and charge: the protesters were paid by George Soros (versus the astroturf Tea Partyers literally paid by Koch Brothers). We can’t have “mob rule.” We must uphold the “Rule of Law” – a laughably ironic statement coming from this mobster-in-chief, whose kinship with Kavanaugh – credibly accused of sexual assault, and now vulnerable, as Trump is, to blackmail – is cemented by Kavanaugh’s promise to shield Trump from investigation or indictment, and his pronounced threat against the “conspiracy” of liberals, Democrats and Clinton supporters. “What goes around, comes around,” the pretender “umpire calling strikes and balls,” menaced.
It is yet another example of Trump (and Republicans) accusing opponents of the criminality they themselves commit – “Rigged election.” “Politicized FBI.” “Pay to Play” (Lock her up!). Voter Fraud (a red-herring to justify Voter Suppression). And the most laughable: accusing Democrats of “unprecedented” obstruction, as if being a Democrat means you are a persona non grata in Trump’s America.
Trump has used this technique to intimidate Democrats from questioning the 2016 Election, accused Democrats of obstructing his agenda and appointments (while also boasting he has gotten a record number of judges appointed), and basically ignoring the majority of Americans in this supposed democracy on everything from gun reform to environmental protection to health care.
He has used his words to raise suspicion and discredit the Mueller investigation, about the FBI and CIA intelligence, about the New York Times and Washington Post’s investigations into campaign finance activity and now the tax evasion (and fraud) that enabled him and his family to cheat the American people out of $500 million. Now he expects this technique to either shut down protest or discredit whatever investigations and reports emerge.
Trump has been playing the “victim” card that he attacks women for: Oh pity the poor, aggrieved white men who need to fear being held to account for wrong-doing. Can’t have that.
He has attacked Senate Democrats who were doing their due diligence in investigating Kavanaugh’s fitness (unfitness) for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court attacking them as “evil,” and accusing them of “con” (that’s really rich).
“Honestly, it’s a very dangerous period in our country,” Trump said at the New York City press conference, just ahead of the Kavanaugh vote. “And it’s being perpetrated by some very evil people. Some of them are Democrats, I must say. Because some of them know that this is just a game that they’re playing. It’s a con game. It’s at the highest level. We’re talking about the United States Supreme Court.”
He is desperate to use Kavanaugh to turn out his voters because he fears a Blue Wave will result in investigations, actual oversight and maybe even impeachment if Democrats get a majority in Congress. So he manufactures a message of aggrievement, of discrediting victims of sexual violence, which is a form of subjugation
More menacingly, he is signaling that he will summon the forces of the state to suppress opposition.
I watched as dozens of protesters on the Capitol steps arrested (300 on Thursday, 124 on Saturday) while Kavanaugh was ultimately confirmed with the smallest number of votes ever, a mere 50. Nearly 300 had been arrested on Thursday, after the sham FBI report was “released” using a level of secrecy that Trump did not see fit to use to protect the Russian investigation’s sources, methods and lives. You would think the arrests contradicted the Constitution’s protection of the right to assemble and petition our government.
How does exercising the Constitutional right to assemble and petition our government warrant arrest? But in Trump’s America, can’t have that.
Kavanaugh becomes one of four sitting Supreme Court Justices named by presidents (George W. Bush and Trump) who lost the popular vote; meanwhile, those 50 Senators who confirmed Kavanaugh represent about 40% of Americans but now, those Justices have the majority to control the lives of millions of people for generations to come.
So a minority is exerting its tyranny over the majority – taking over each and every one of its institutions, the White House, the Congress and now the Supreme Court (and all the other lesser courts).
So people are taking to the streets. And Trump can’t have that.
This faux “Law and Order” Putin-wannabe is signaling with his use of terms like “mob rule” and screams that protest somehow violates the “Rule of Law” (as opposed to his own evasion of accountability for sexual assault, tax evasion, campaign finance violations, conspiracy with a foreign adversary to steal the election) that he will call out enforcement to shut down protest. In his mind, even not applauding his State of the Union is tantamount to treason.
He will use all the tools and powers at his command, including whatever is possible to suppress the vote, under the guise of preventing voter fraud, or just impeding access to the polls.
Techniques the Republicans have used effectively include locating polling places so they are less accessible to certain voters, purging voter lists, challenging voter IDs if the name isn’t exact (an excellent technique to prevent women from voting); limiting hours, having employers refuse to give time off (or pay) to go vote, having too few voting machines, forcing people to stand on line for hours, then shutting the doors when time’s up, and even having thugs stand outside. Wouldn’t put it past them to set up road blocks.
This actually has happened where those entrusted with enforcing the law does the bidding of those wielding political power.
At the New-York Historical Society, there is a chilling exhibit, “Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow,” a punch-to-the-gut examination of how the Emancipation Proclamation, Civil War, and most significantly, Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, led to an institutionalized system of terror and subjugation of African Americans. This included the complicity of the Supreme Court which issued decisions dating back to Dred Scott, that perpetuated subjugation.
The 1857 Dred Scott case ruled that though Scott was in territory that did not have slavery, Scott had no right to sue because he was not a US citizen, and no black person, free or slave, could be a US citizen. (This was overturned with the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection clause that covered any person in the US, which is why undocumented immigrants also have rights under the Constitution). :“All persons born or naturalized in the United States…are citizens of the United States…No State shall…deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”)
Nonetheless, the Supreme Court for a century was complicit in systemic subjugation of blacks, minorities, immigrants and women.
Despite the 15th Amendment guarantee of voting rights (“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude”) states which had allowed non-propertied white men to vote in 1828 (where is the Constitutional amendment for that?), now passed laws restricting voting only to white men, which the Supreme Court did not overturn.
After Congress, in 1875, passed a civil rights act banning discrimination in public places, the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in 1883.
In 1882, the federal government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, restricting Chinese immigration and prohibiting the courts from naturalizing Chinese as citizens. (No doubt, Kavanaugh will raise this as “precedent” for backing a Muslim Travel Ban.)
In 1884, The Supreme Court ruled that the 14th and 15th amendments do not grant citizenship to Native Americans. (Today, new Voter ID laws could limit access to polls by Native Americans in North Dakota and Trump’s Justice Department is no longer prosecuting voting rights abuses.)
In 1890, as Mississippi and other southern states formalized disenfranchisement of African Americans, the Supreme Court upheld them because voting restrictions did not specifically mention “race.”
In 1896, the Supreme Court ruled in Plessy v Ferguson that it’s A-OK for segregated facilities to be “separate, but equal.”
Meanwhile, the Ku Klux Klan was rising, terrorizing Blacks, especially those who sought to run for political office. Blacks were lynched for nothing more than being accused of looking at a white woman (making Trump’s faux victimization of white men credibly accused of sexual assault even more absurd). More than 4,000 African Americans were publically lynched from 1877 to the 1950s, in a great many cases, aided and abetted by local police.
Interestingly, anti-lynching efforts were led by women’s organizations, and an anti-lynching bill was put forward in 1937, though none got passed the filibusters of the southern Dixiecrats.
Just as today, the Ku Klux Klan and White Supremacists used the guise of righteous “glory be to God” to subjugate, terrorize and retain power.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell went nuclear in overturning the filibuster, even as the United States’ gap in populations of large and small states mushroomed from the time of the Founders’ compromise that gave each state, large and small, two senators each. Wyoming with a population of 579,000 has equal voting power to California with 40 million. A similar imbalance in the Electoral College shows the fraud of “one-person, one vote” (a Wyoming voter has 4 times the weight of a Californian), and the lie to the Republicans’ false flag of “voter fraud” to justify its voter suppression. The majority no longer rules, not in the White House, not in the House, where gerrymandering entrenches the minority Republican party, not in the Senate and not in the Supreme Court.
As for that ridiculous assertion by Senator Susan Collins of Maine that a PAC accumulating money to use against her reelection in 2020 was akin to bribery? What a joke, since the pro-Kavanaugh right-wing groups, led by the Judicial Crisis Center, spent $7 million on its campaign to get Kavanaugh confirmed. The imbalance in campaign spending, thanks to the Scalia Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision, has given special interests ownership of politicians and policy. Glad to hear Collins is upset about that, but I doubt she will do anything about it.
This Kavanaugh battle has illustrated a number of things: Might makes right. Power begets power. Women who have been assaulted or harassed will get no justice. There’s no such thing as “No man is above the law” which means that there is no actual “Rule of Law.”
Women’s rights activists. Gun Rights Activists. Climate Activists. Workers Rights activists, Immigrant Rights activists cannot be cowed. Yes, it is crucial to turn out and vote in these midterms – and it will take a Blue Wave of more than 60% just to get to 51% majority in Congress. But if the Republicans are able to keep control with all the levers and advantages of using power to keep power (gerrymandering, voter suppression, campaign spending, propaganda and outright election hacking), then those peaceful protests protected under the Constitution may in fact turn into an angry mob of unleashed frustration and victimization.
Some 22,000 New Yorkers joined a protest march and rally against the Trump Administration’s “Zero Tolerance” policy of separating children from parents and incarcerating families seeking asylum. The march that started at Foley Square in downtown Manhattan, continued across the Brooklyn Bridge, and finished with a rally in Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn.
Here are highlights:
Donna Lieberman, Executive Director, New York Civil Liberties Union: “It’s bad enough those who control government would turn their backs on those fleeing violence, turn out people living here for decades, but that the country I love so much could commit such atrocities against children, all in the service of a warped agenda. We won a court order to force the government to reunite families in 30 days. It was an important victory but we know this regime won’t comply unless we force them to…. Take back our country. Fight back in courts, on the streets and damn it, at the ballot box.”
Carola Bracco, Executive Director, Neighbors Link: “Today is not just about immigrant rights, it is about human rights. This is not who we are as a country. This is not a country I recognize. I can’t imagine anything more devastating than having a child forcibly taken, then having to search. From this chaos, strong leaders are emerging, committed to changing course. We are here to fight for liberty, to live with dignity. Together we will change the trajectory of this country.”
Jennifer Jones Austin, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies: “Freedom is about saying no to a lie, vetoeing an untruth. Say no to the lies of this administration; veto the untruth of saying separating children is for our own good.
Estela Vasquez, Executive Vice President, 1199 SEIU: “Mobilize, march, protest until we stop this stupid policy of zero tolerance. Scorch Agent Orange in the white House. We are not fooled by a phony executive order. Separating children, incarcerating children is no different from what the Nazis in Germany did in the 1930s, what we did to Japanese in World War II. Zero tolerance for poverty, for police brutality, for inhumanity.”
Hector Figuerola, SEIU: These migrants are running away from the conditions the US created in the first place. 66% of our union are foreign born. “The labor movement has to stand against these attacks on immigrant families. They are not ‘them’. They are us. Fight for children not to be jailed, but free. Stand for families everywhere. This doesn’t end today. For families who suffer loss of a child to police brutality or street violence. Fight for all families. Start with immigrants being dehumanized by this administration. Imagine what it will be if we were to connect the struggle of all the resistence against Trump – labor, women’s movement, those seeking freedom for everyone. Our fight is the fight of people. Let’s fight and let’s win.
Padma Lakshmi, Author and Television Host: I am an immigrant, a daughter of an immigrant single mother. This is an issue of common decency and humanity, defining who we want to be as a nation. This country was built on labor and sweat of immigrants. That’s what makes America great. Trump is sowing generations of hatred.”
Omolara Uwemedimo, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Occupational Medicine, Epidemiology and Prevention, Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, a daughter of Nigerian immigrants and a mother of two, described the physical and mental toll that may last a lifetime on children being subjected to the trauma of being forcibly separated and incarcerated. There is also the toxic stress on those living in fear of a government taking undocumented parents away from a family. “Family detention is not a solution, it is child abuse and I am a mandated reporter. I am reporting the Trump Administration for abuse of black and brown children.”
Flor Reyes, DACA Recipient, with her brother, Elvis, described the constant terror of a family of “mixed status,” where parents could be deported while children are DACA recipients or American citizens must fend for themselves.
Perla Lopez, Youth member, Make the Road New York, recalled her flight with her mother, fleeing with five children and her detention. “It was almost 10 years ago but is still traumatic.”
Comedian and actor Amy Schumer: “We were so excited election night when we thought Hillary would be president. Then Hell opened up.”
Rama Issa, Executive Director, Arab American Association of NY, was one of 633 women arrested in Washington DC demanding the government abolish ICE.
Shannon Stagman, Leader, Empire State Indivisible: “Pick up the phone and call your representatives every day. Donating is good, but also knock on doors. Voting is good, but also help others vote.”
Murad Awawdeh, VP of Advocacy, New York Immigration Coalition, provided a list of action items: Fight. Stay informed (text NYIC 864237 for alerts); Call legislators. Support organizations (donate, volunteer). And “vote for those who share our values.”
Other speakers included:
Rev. Chloe Breyer, Interfaith Center of NY
Alison Hirsh, Vice President and Political Director, SEIU 32BJ
Ravi Ragbir, Leader, New Sanctuary Coalition
Rev. Al Sharpton, President of National Action Network
Kerry Washington, Actor, Producer and Activist
Imam Suhaib Webb, Resident Scholar, Islamic Center NYU
Among the electeds participating in the march: U.S. House Representatives Yvette Clarke, Carolyn Maloney, Nydia Velázquez, Jerrold Nadler, and Adriano Espaillat, as well as numerous state and local representatives.
Tens of thousands of New Yorkers gathered at Foley Square in front of the federal courthouse and marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to protest the Trump Administration’s intolerable Zero Tolerance immigration policy that has resulted in thousands of children being forcibly separated from parents making a claim for asylum from violence in Central America.
The Protect Families March and Rally was organized by the New York Immigration Coalition, an umbrella policy and advocacy organization for more than 200 groups in New York State including immigrant rights advocates, advocacy groups, unions, and allies demanding an end to the Trump administration’s cruel and inhumane policies against immigrant families.
New York City Police Department estimated the crowd at 22,000, but there may have been many more than that. The “family-friendly” march was exactly that with scores of families with their small children taking a stand on behalf of other families.
It was one of 700 protests across America on June 30, a National Day of Action.
The Day of Action was the climax to Trump’s incrementally destructive immigration policy, starting with summarily ending DACA protections, then ending legal status for thousands of refugees who have been given shelter in the US for decades and built homes here, stepped up deportation raids that take parents away from children, many of whom are American citizens. Demanding $25 billion to build a wall that no one believes will do anything, and holding the federal budget hostage to that, is the least of it. Trump is also using first the DACA recipients and now the immigrant children as bargaining chips to restrict legal immigration, as well.
Instead of pursuing a constructive, humanitarian solution to immigration reform, Donald Trump purposefully undertakes the cruelest, most brutal and destructive power-play – because he can. Because he thinks this will fire up his base since they are getting wise that his tax “cut” is really a scam. And because he has dictator envy.
But while Trump moved with great urgency and speed to literally kidnap children from their parents in order to hold them for ransom to get his equally brutal and destructive immigration “reform” that would restrict even legal immigration (and $25 billion for a useless wall), his administration could care less about setting up the mechanisms to assure the children – moved hundreds and thousands of miles away – can be restored to their parents. As it is, there are parents who are being immediately deported without their children, some too young to know their own name or speak, who are lost in a system.
In fact, this plan – to use torture as a “deterrent” –under the guise of “Zero Tolerance” was hatched in the first few weeks after Trump’s inauguration, embraced by John Kelly, then Homeland Security secretary. It is also on view with the way he has unleashed deportation raids, snatching those with American spouses and children, cancelled legal status of refugees who have lived in the US for decades.
It’s remarkable to contemplate (since the administration isn’t saying) how much money is being spent on this sadistic policy – one private prison operator has a contract for $500 million – and who in the Trump orbit is pocketing the millions and millions of tax dollars.
But let’s be reminded: the reason there are so many undocumented immigrants (11 million by some accounts) and so many thousands crossing “illegally” (though just 20% from the peak) is because the Republicans have effectively shut down legal immigration and refused to take up Comprehensive Immigration reform.
If this really were about controlling illegal immigration, the Trump administration would have spent those millions staffing ports of entry, setting up immigration courts, and creating detention centers that could accommodate families. They could release parents with an ankle bracelet (as they did under Obama) so they could be tracked; 99% of immigrants turn up to their court hearings.
Other presidents appropriately tried to deal with the problem at their source: the heinous violence that has prompted these parents to flee with only what they could carry, taking their children on the most perilous 2,000-mile journey – violence the US bred with the export of MS-13 from Los Angeles. That was one of the reasons for NAFTA – to improve the living standard in Mexico through trade – and it worked to a great extent (the refugees aren’t coming from Mexico, in fact, more Mexicans are leaving than are coming). Obama, faced with an unprecedented flood of refugees seeking asylum, thousands of unaccompanied teenagers among them, attempted to improve conditions in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador (along with an information campaign to discourage people from coming). Indeed, the numbers of those being apprehended at the border fell sharply, from a peak of 1.6 million in 2001, to 300,000 in 2017 – hardly an invasion, or “infestation” in the White Nationalist language that Trump spews or a “crisis” except by Trump’s own concoction. Instead, Trump has said he would cut off aid to these countries, which would only exacerbate the desperation.
Trump has no such interest in actually solving a problem, certainly not improving the lives of others. And he thinks his Zero Tolerance policy plays well to his (deplorables) base, especially since they are catching on to the Republican tax scam that redistributed $1.5 trillion from working families into the pockets of the already obscenely rich and corporations (83% going to top 1%, a mere 4% of workers receiving a bonus or pay hike because of tax cuts).
So he needs to motivate his base somehow, and is literally handing them red meat.
His fear-mongering, which mimics the propaganda campaign used by Nazis, brands immigrants as “animals,” “infestation,” “aliens” “invaders” stealing jobs and harming the economy in order to dehumanize them. In fact, immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than “native born,” and even a study by the Trump Administration found that instead of “costing” jobs, immigrants added $63 billion to the US economy over a 10-year period (the report was suppressed because of its finding, and leaked to the New York Times two months later). And aren’t we constantly told that unemployment is at record lows?
These asylum-seekers violating laws? Actually, not. It is Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen who are violating the Constitution and international law and should be prosecuted for human rights abuses. And this only adds to the ever growing list of Trump’s impeachable crimes: crimes against humanity.
Now he is insisting that these immigrants have no right to due-process to make their claim in front of an immigration judge. In fact, Trump, who first used the 800,000 DACA recipients as bargaining chips, now has upped the ante in using infants. Trump is using these children, who are suffering crippling trauma that can impact their entire lives, in order to get legislation that effectively shuts down even legal immigration. He has said so: he only wants “merit” based immigration (as in the Chinese who invest in his properties in order to purchase visas).
This is a man who embraces torture and proudly proclaimed he would kill family members to “discourage” would-be terrorists. His internment camps and the legal limbo invented status he has created are akin to Guantanamo Bay, where there too, due-process and American values of “innocent until proven guilty” have been violated, and where torture has made those cases unresolvable, his use of child abuse, kidnapping to extort their parents into agreeing to deportation and Democrats to accept unacceptable legislation akin to Abu Ghraib.
Be reminded that Obama did have a compromises comprehensive Immigration Bill that passed the Senate in 2013, 68-32, but John Boehner blocked from a vote in the House, causing Obama to institute DACA; and that Trump, himself, in that brief interlude that suggested sanity when it was only the 800,000 DACA recipients being held hostage, said he would accept any compromise out of “love” and “compassion” but then promptly betrayed every deal agreed to and torpedoed every bill proposed.
If Trump really wanted to solve the problem, he would add, not detract, from the impossibly overworked 330 immigration judges required to meet a quota of cases (basically tipping the scales against petitioners, compromising the fairness and integrity of a case) and never get to wind down the backlog of 720,000 cases, rather than ridicule the plea to hire 5,000 more judges because, as Trump tweeted, “they are corrupt.” (That might be true for his judicial appointees, starting with Neil Gorsuch.)
There may be pernicious strategy to Trump’s politics, but yet another example of the complete ineptitude and corruption in the implementation – like Puerto Rico, like the Trump Travel Ban – scandals, violations of law and the Constitution that would have toppled any other administration and triggered impeachment.
The Trump administration had no plan and actually no real care, and had no process for reuniting the children with their parents, who received a receipt for their property but not their child, even infants who cannot speak; what is more, there are reports of children being drugged and abused while in custody.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has said, “Family separation can cause irreparable harm to children’s health, disrupting their brain architecture and affecting short- and long-term health.” He is also inflicting torturous anxiety on parents. What is more, the administration has not developed a mechanism to insure the parents are reunited with their children, let alone contact them, who are often removed hundreds or thousands of miles away, and have already begun deporting parents without their children, or even knowing where the children are.
The very secrecy built around Trump’s internment system should spur Congressional oversight, but Republicans, who spent 4 years and 11 separate investigations into Benghazi, have no appetite and no interest, making their own political calculations.
Trump has slapped that claim of “national security” on this and every other heinous policy (Travel Ban, illegal tariffs) but his policy has made the country less safe – pulling resources from detaining actual drug-smugglers and criminals, further enraging and alienating allies, and making the US toothless in condemning human rights abuses anywhere in the world, turning the US into a rogue nation. Moreover, its treatment of migrating mothers and small children are likely to be a recruitment tool for terrorists, just as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo were. It’s no coincidence the US pulled out of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
But making the country safe was never the issue, just as there was no real immigration “crisis,” and certainly no actual “invasion”. Trump sees “Zero Tolerance” as a winning political issue for those who fear more than anything, as Pat Buchanan warned, the loss of White Power and White Supremacy as America evolves into a minority-majority nation.
What do they fear from an “infestation?” That “these” people or their children, will someday vote, or at least be counted in a census determining representation in Congress (that so far has worked in the favor of the Southerners, much as the 3/5 rule for slaves gave White Supremacists outsized power in Congress).
But this extortionist style of “negotiation” has worked for Trump throughout his corrupt career and will only continue, especially if it works now. What’s next? Stepped up deportation raids? Strip nationalized Americans of their citizenship? Suspend due process? Purges and loyalty oaths for federal workers? Lock up journalists? Martial law? Cancel elections? Imprison political opponents? Extra-judicial killings? Expand the Travel (Muslim) Ban? Because he can, because nobody will stop him?
Trump, in a familiar pattern of accusing others of doing the offences he actually commits, said these desperate immigrants have been prompted by lawyers to use the password “fleeing violence” to gain the rights of asylum-seekers. But the five Supreme Court conservatives, including Neil Gorsuch sitting in the seat stolen for him by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, gave him the password which Trump will no doubt use liberally, to expand a travel ban, to deny asylum seekers due process, to commit the unconscionable crime of separating children from their parents: “national security.”