Hundreds of New Yorkers turned out in the pouring rain Tuesday to show their opposition to President Donald Trump’s Cabinet appointments and to demand the same of their elected representatives. The demonstration was held outside the Manhattan offices of Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer as part of a day of nationwide protests called #ResistTrumpTuesdays.
There were more than 100 actions in cities across the country, according to organizers, who plan to protest every Tuesday. The next planned action in New York City will take place outside Sen. Schumer’s home in Brooklyn.
“We’re going to come out every Tuesday,” says Nelini Stamp, an organizer with the Working Families Party, one of the groups that called for the demonstration. “We’re out here to block Trump’s Cabinet.”
In addition to the Working Families Party, the coalition that called for #ResistTrumpTuesdays includes MoveOn.org and People’s Action. Organizers estimated that between 800−1,200 people attended the New York action, which stretched eight rows back from police barricades for much of the afternoon.
The protests come just days after the Women’s March, which saw millions around the country and the world show their opposition to Trump’s agenda, and the smaller but more confrontational actions known as #DisruptJ20 that took place on Inauguration Day. Taken as a whole, these actions make it clear that the Trump administration is facing coordinated grassroots protest from the outset of his first term.
The event called for Democrats to oppose all of Trump’s appointments, but several nominees garnered extra criticism. Betsy DeVos, who Trump tapped to head the department of education, was a main focus of the crowd and organizers who led chants. Numerous signs also singled out Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, and Andrew Puzder, chief executive of CKE Restaurants, parent company of fast-food chains Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, and a longtime opponent of unions, who Trump has tapped to head the labor department.
“Puzder, Pruitt, DeVos — they only serve the interests of the private sector and capital,” says Stamp. Trump is in the process of putting together the wealthiest Cabinet in the modern era, with some estimates putting the nominees’ combined net worth at some $14 billion.
In an early signal of what Trump’s energy and environmental policies will look like, the president signed executive orders Tuesday reviving the Dakota Access and the Keystone XL pipelines, two projects long-opposed by environmental groups. The Obama administration had waffled on both, but by the end of his term the projects had been put on hold following intense public pressure.
The construction of new pipelines isn’t the only danger to the environment, either. Pruitt, Trump’s EPA pick, has sued the agency he may now oversee 13 times. “I oppose Pruitt. He will wipe out the EPA,” says Lori Chlapowski. She held a sign that read “No Silent Spring,” a reference to Rachel Carson’s book that was instrumental in launching the environmentalist movement.
Chlapowski was joined by her friend, Laura Beth-Kerr Gilman, who marched on Saturday in New York City. Watching the Senate confirmation hearings was particularly infuriating for her. “I was so angry, my blood was boiling,” Gilman told In These Times. “You know how Trump said [Megyn Kelly] had blood coming out of her wherever? Blood is coming out of my everywhere.”
The message to Democrats was clear: Cave to Trump and there will be consequences. Reuben Hayslett, one of the demonstration’s organizers, led the crowd in chanting a collective promise. “Democrats who cut deals, we’re coming for you,” he shouted. “We’ll remember in November.”
A representative from Sen. Gillibrand’s office spoke with Stamp briefly, and then with the soaking wet participants.
“Senator Gillibrand supports and is grateful to all the New Yorkers who stood up and demanded action today,” spokesman Marc Brumer said later. “She opposes Betsy’s DeVos’s nomination and has serious concerns about President-elect Trump’s other Cabinet nominees.”
Several members of a newly-formed group called Public School Watchdogs were present at the action, primarily in opposition to DeVos. “We’ve spread by word of mouth from just me in front of my school collecting letters to parents from about 25 NYC schools collecting over 4,000 letters to Sens. Schumer and Gillibrand opposing DeVos,” Lizzie Scott, who founded the group, told In These Times.
“It’s spread like wildfire,” Scott added. “It’s been so easy to organize because to public school parents and their kids, the appointment of Betsy DeVos is an emergency — as serious an emergency as ACA [Affordable Care Act] reform. She’s hostile to children with special needs, to LGBT and gender-non-conforming students, to teachers. She’s basically hostile to the whole idea of public school. And that’s terrifying.”
Scott says her group has had “success meeting with Gillibrand’s staffers, but we’ve been pretty much ignored by Chuck Schumer’s office.” His office also did not immediately respond to a request for comment from In These Times.
“We organized a letter delivery with the children who’d worked so hard, and Schumer’s office wouldn’t even let them in,” said Scott. “It’s been a frustrating and sad lesson to the kids about how little our representatives care about something so incredibly important to so many people.”