Nov. 17, 2016 By Hannah Wulkan
More than 500 people gathered at the Sunnyside Community Services Center last night to denounce President-elect Donald Trump and his ideology and to brainstorm future political action.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer hosted a community speak out and brought together local organizations and community members to share their feelings about the election results and figure out ways to combat Trump’s controversial pledges.
He also used the event to promote his march across the Queensboro Bridge to Trump Tower this weekend, urging everyone to come out and take action, and live-streamed part of the event on Facebook to reach those not in the room.
“I wanted to bring us all together because I saw messages where people felt hopeless and powerless, and I want everyone to look around. This is power, we are powerful, this is a powerful statement on behalf of this community and this city,” Van Bramer said.
“Donald Trump may have won the election, at least the Electoral College, he may occupy the White House, but he cannot occupy us, he will never occupy us,” Van Bramer added.
He also led the group in several chants, denouncing racism, misogyny, anti-Muslim sentiment, anti-LGBTQ sentiment, and anti-Semitism.
To rally against Trump’s ideology, more than a dozen social organizations positioned themselves throughout the room, offering information on ways to get involved.
“We just want to make sure that Trump and his supporters know we are here to stay regardless of the anti immigrant platforms that he used throughout his campaign,” said Yaritza Mendez, an advocate with Make the Road New York, an organization that advocates for Latino and working class communities throughout the city.
Mendez added that MTRNY led a rally against Trump last weekend, garnering 15,000 supporters, and that the organization is working on extra programming to protect the rights of immigrants in the city.
Planned Parenthood representative Elizabeth Adams said that one of the most pressing issues to the organization is the appointment of a new Supreme Court Justice and protecting the Roe v. Wade decision, which Trump has said he would like to see overturned claiming that individual states should determine abortion laws.
She added that protecting the Affordable Care Act and Planned Parenthood funding were also high on the list of priorities, and encouraged people to get involved through donations and activism, both online and in person.
“I am not going to sit and wait until they come for us, we are going to fight back,” Van Bramer said.
Public comments during the event covered a wide range of topics, from fears and racist incidents to hopeful messages for the future.
One 87-year-old resident urged people to wear a safety pin to mark themselves as safe allies to those experiencing harassment and abuse following the election.
“Let us look beyond our thoughts on the election and its results from our personal disappointments and angulation. Let us see past our own egos pride and agendas, but let us instead get laser focused on what this election has done to the children,” community member Ty Sullivan said in a statement read by local pastor Jon Storck.
He went on to explain that in the last week, he had heard of several local children suffering from racial attacks in schools, including a child who was told his “n-word president can’t save him now,” and an 8-year-old Latina girl who was told not to bother unpacking because she is leaving.
Van Bramer encouraged participants to brainstorm solutions and put them on post-it notes on a “Wall of Ideas” in the back of the room, and said he plans to compile them and send them out to the community as a path of action.
He closed the event with a group sing-along of the “This Land is Your Land,” a famous populist folk song that has been used by leftist activists for decades.
“Donald Trump may have been born and raised here, but we have a responsibility to let him know that this borough passed him and his values a long time ago,” Van Bramer said. “I’m not willing to wait and see what they decide to do to us. I want to prepare now for the worst that could be.”
Assembly Member Cathy Nolan stopped by at the tail end of the event, urging people to keep perspective but take action.
“We have to keep perspective and be part of the march of history,” she said. “And we know that the march of history in Western Queens is going to be for justice, it’s going to be for equality, it’s going to be for fairness, and it’s going to be for all the values that we hold dear.”
Organizations included at the event were:
-Planned Parenthood of New York City
-Girl Scouts of Greater New York
-Make the Road New York
-Woodside On the Move
-Jacob Riis Center
-Sunnyside Community Services
-Emerald Isle Immigration Center
-Catholic Migration Center
-Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City
-Muslim Student Association of Aviation High School
-Theater of the Oppressed New York
-Aids Center of Queens County
-The Arab American Family Support Center