About 100 demonstrators, mostly young women of color, marched and chanted their way through the streets of downtown Newark Saturday afternoon, part of a spreading movement against the presidency of Donald Trump. They staged two sit-down protests in four hours, closing McCarter Highway and occupying the concourse of Newark Penn Station.
“If there ain’t gonna be no justice, there ain’t gonna be no peace!”
Their chants–“If there ain’t gonna be no justice, there ain’t gonna be no peace!”–and their makeshift signs–“Fuck Trump” and “Pussy grabs back!”–showed how the shock and sadness over the results of Tuesday’s election have been transformed into anger and, possibly, sustained action.
“Love trumps hate!”
Many of the students said they would travel to New York and Philadelphia to join continuing demonstrations against Trump whose campaign against Hillary Clinton was marked by threats to ban Muslim visitors to the United States and the creation of a task force to deport more than 11 million undocumented workers.
“Build bridges not walls!”
Although it was noisy, the demonstration was peaceful and there were no arrests.
“No justice, no peace–no racist police!”
“I was only worried once,” said one of the organizers, 18-year-old Nenseh Koneh, a Newark resident who is in her first year at Temple University in Philadelphia. “I was afraid some of the people in the street might come after us.”
“Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Donald Trump is KKK!”
That was when the students–from Temple, Drew, Rutgers, New York University, William Paterson University, Essex County College and nearby high schools–sat down at the intersection of McCarter Highway and Market Street, a block from Penn Station, blocking traffic.
“Show me what democracy looks like–this is what democracy looks like!”
Some motorists left their cars and approached the students. Although some observers cheered on the students, a few were clearly angry and one demanded the police–present in force–arrest the students. The Newark police, however, made no move to clear the intersection.
“If we don’t get it, shut it down!”
New Jersey Transit police also did not try to block the protesters’ entry into Penn Station and allowed the sit-in demonstration, a move that brought cheers from some of the commuters rushing to and from trains.
“Donald Trump is not my president!”
A number of the students spoke at spontaneous rallies during the march. Conspicuously missing, however, were elected officials or leaders of civil rights and other civic and political organizations. Representatives of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), AFL-CIO, spoke briefly in support of the anti-Trump demonstrators. The group–People’s Organization for Progress”–also sent members.
“Black Lives Matter!”
“We can’t complain about that–we only had a short time to put this together,” said Koneh. “So I’m glad for whatever support we did receive. This won’t be the end of it.”
“Gay Lives Matter! Muslim Lives Matter! “
Sorrow and frustration–as well as anger–were apparent. One Rutgers-Newark student, Halima Stewart, told the rally at Penn Station that young people believed in democracy and the vote–a democracy that somehow awarded its highest political office to a man who had won only a minority of the votes.
“We’re young, we’re strong, we’re marching all day long!”
“We voted and we voted for a reason–don’t take that vote away from us,” said Stewart.
“Whose streets? Our streets!”
The core of the group was made up of participants in what had become a major force in local Newark politics a few years ago–the Newark Student Union (NSU). Although the NSU was co-opted by Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and all but disappeared, leaders of the old organization–Jose Leonardo, Tanaisa Brown, Kristin Towkaniuk, Hector Maldonado–all now college students–were active in Saturday’s march.
“Whose future? Our future!”
“We’re hopeful this is going to grow from here,” said Koneh. “I think you’re going to see a national student movement aimed at Trump. This was definitely something positive.”
“We gonna be all right!”