New York — A sea of Haitian flags took over Broadway on Martin Luther King Jr. Day at a “Rally Against Racism” in Times Square. 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the largest healthcare union in the country, organized the protest in response recent remarks from President Trump, calling Haiti and African nations “shithole countries.”
“We are not from any shithole,” 1199SEIU President George Gresham told the crowd, which brimmed with the colors of the Haitian flag. “As a matter of fact, the only shithole that I see is what comes out of his [Trump’s] mouth.”
Honoring King’s legacy by resisting the Trump White House was a common theme Monday afternoon.
“We’re going to keep standing up and we’re going to let him [Trump] know that this is what America looks like,” Gresham said.
King himself once described 1199 as “the authentic conscience of the labor movement.” The union has over 400,000 members throughout the Northeast and south into Florida.
“I can’t imagine how the generations past who fought for human rights must feel today,” protester Trudi Posey of Manhattan, one of about a thousand people to attend the rally, mused. “The shame that we have that this man, this bigoted, prejudiced, evil, money-mongering person in control of the United States.”
In addition to rejecting President Trump’s racism, many speakers at Monday’s rally voiced support for inclusive immigration policies. Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) spoke in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and criticized the President’s vision of a “hateful, small-minded and cold-hearted America,” as well as his indifference towards “our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.”
With midterm elections on the horizon, talk Monday turned to accountability for elected officials.
Mayor De Blasio spent time on stage thanking New Yorkers from Haiti, El Salvador, and Africa for their contributions to the city and country.
In November, the Department Homeland Security announced it was eliminating temporary protective status for some 40,000 Haitians living in the United States and this month the department said it was lifting the protective status granted some 200,000 El Salvadorans under the George W. Bush administration.
With midterm elections on the horizon, talk Monday turned to accountability for elected officials. Gresham warned, “Those of you who think that you can be neutral, or you can be silent on this — your days are numbered too. If you can’t stand up for the people who put you in office, who needs you! We don’t need you and we don’t want you.”
Despite frigid, below-freezing temperatures the crowd’s mood was, overall, one of hope.
“I’m very honored to be able to walk amongst all my brothers and sisters in freedom,” said 38-year-old Long Islander Veronica Ortega, who attended the protest with her husband.
“Look at all the people around us,” Posey reflected. “Good people, who will fight for what they believe in, for equality around the world.”
Photo: Demonstrators at Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day Rally Against Racism in Times Square. Credit: Caitrin Sneed.