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Queens to Trump: You Don’t Speak Our Language(s)

The culturally diverse borough repudiates a native son

Jesse Rubin Nov 24

Queens is the most culturally diverse urban area in the United States. Among its 2.3 million residents, more than 100 languages are spoken. It’s also where President-elect Donald Trump was born. But as far as today’s residents are concerned the champion of bigotry and nativism is an alien figure they want nothing to do with.

On Saturday November 19, an estimated 1,000 Queens residents spoke out against Trump in a rally and march across the 59th Street Bridge, from Long Island City to Trump Tower in mid-Manhattan. The event was organized by Queens City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Woodside).

“We'll march from Queens because in this borough, we know our diversity makes us stronger,” read the Facebook event page. “Trump may have been raised here, but he's not from here any more.”

“We live in the most diverse zip code in the United States,” Cristina Furlong of Jackson Heights told The Indypendent.

Carrying a large American flag aided by her young son, Furlong said that despite Trump’s hate-filled campaign “diversity, inclusion and tolerance remain 100% U.S. values.”

Demonstrators carried signs embracing diversity as the foundation of their borough. Barry Abrams and his immigrant wife carried a sign reading: “154 languages spoken here but not the language of hate.”

On Twitter, activists connected around the hashtag #QueensValues which celebrates the diversity of the “world’s borough.”

Since the very first day of Trump’s campaign he has targeted people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ and working class communities. His election now presents an immediate and real physical danger to many Americans, as he prepares to enter the White House and makes good on such promises as mass deportations and religious registries.

“Trump opened my eyes,” said Siobhan Keys, adding that this was her first-ever demonstration. “It’s hard to know what to do, but that’s why I’m here.”

“I was lucky enough to grow up around a lot of different cultures,” said Keys, explaining how her politics are informed by her Woodhaven upbringing. “Although this can make some people xenophobic,” she added, citing the Trump voters in her own family, “it didn’t make me.”

Seasoned activist Alia Gee — who mobilized in the early days of Occupy Wall Street and has since developed guidelines for parents wishing to bring their children to demonstrations — passed out throat lozenges to keep up demonstrators’ vocal stamina throughout the march.

“If a Ricola will stop fascism” Gee said, “then fuck yes, take a Ricola!”

Just a week after Donald Trump’s electoral college win, Councilmember Van Bramer hosted a “Community Speak Out” to provide space for those anxious about Trump’s win. When over 700 people showed up, it was clear that many in Queens were eager to participate in the march. Significant Latino/a, Asian and South Asian communities make up parts of Western Queens, as do Greek, African American and Arab populations.

Despite receiving homophobic and anti-immigrant death threats in an anonymous email two days before the march, Councilman Van Bramer — the first openly-gay elected official married in Queens — remained steadfast.

Van Bramer, along with his family and staff marched with demonstrators across the Queensboro bridge.

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-East Harlem) and council member Jumaane Williams (D-Flatbush) also joined.
 
“After my colleague received death threats, I felt it imperative to be present! #SignMeUp,” Williams tweeted.
 
More than 700 hate incidents have been reported nationwide since Trump’s election two weeks ago, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
 
The NYPD says New York alone has witnessed a 30 percent spike in hate crimes this year.
 
Organizers of Saturday’s march hope to inspire ongoing activism, encouraging community members to remain active by reporting hate crimes, training for a crisis hotline or connecting with local advocacy organizations like Make the Road, Planned Parenthood, Arab American Family Support Center or AIDS Center of Queens County.
 
On the legislative side, a spokesperson for Councilmember Van Bramer told The Indypendent that he has signed on as a sponsor of the Right to Know Act, a long-stalled measure to increase police accountability.
 
The measure is endorsed by the New York social justice community, but is opposed by the NYPD and Mayor Bill de Blasio.
 

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