An estimated 200,000 women, men and children took to the streets of Manhattan last Saturday on the first anniversary of President Trump’s inauguration.
For several “resistance” groups from Long Island, participation in the march was a way to protest the acts of the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress.
For members of the Rockville Centre organizations Raising Voices and Indivisible, the protest began the evening before. About 30 people gathered in the basement of Turn of the Corkscrew for a “sign-making party.” Attendees milled around, bouncing ideas off one another and trading colored markers. The signs proclaimed a range of sentiments, from anti-sexual harassment messages to commemorations of the 45th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that gave women the right to an abortion.
Despite the national focus of the protests, much of the conversation at the sign-painting event centered on local politics. Travis Bourgeois of Baldwin, who in 2016 ran unsuccessfully for the seat in the State Assembly district covering parts of Oceanside, Lynbrook, Malverne, Freeport, Baldwin and Rockville Centre, shared stories from the county Board of Elections, where Bourgeois works with Anthony Santino, the recently ousted Town of Hempstead supervisor. Bourgeois’ sign read, “Keep Calm and Rise Against,” a reference to an activist band he follows.
Karen Blitz, a Rockville Centre native who ran unsuccessfully for legislator in Nassau County’s 7th District, enlisted the help of local high school artists to create a sign that read, “Viva La Vagina: Resistance against the regulation of our bodies” featuring an illustration of an upside-down Capitol dome in a woman’s crotch.
On the morning of the march, about 50 people — mostly women, many wielding signs, many wearing pink “pussy hats” — descended on the Rockville Centre Long Island Rail Road station. The mood was jovial, as people complimented the signs, reminisced about the previous year’s march and talked about all that had transpired politically over the past year.
George Siberon, who ran last summer for Nassau County legislator in the 5th District as an independent Democrat, arrived at the station sporting a shirt that read, “I’m Hispanic, I live on Long Island, and I vote.”
Sheila McDougal, of Rockville Centre, told the Herald that she was protesting “against the president and his disgraceful policies, and against Congress.” And, she added, emphasizing the positive, “I’m protesting for women.”
Marguerite Grassing Keller, co-director of the Hispanic Brotherhood of Rockville Centre, which serves Hispanics across Long Island, said that she was planning on making a sign related to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA — a sticking point in Congress’s negotiations to fund the government and end this week’s shutdown.
After a noisy and friendly ride on the LIRR, the group marched up into Pennsylvania Station, where they joined hundreds of other Long Island protesters. To make sure the Raising Voices and Indivisible groups didn’t get lost in the sea of signs and pink hats, Deana Davoudiasl, a member of both groups, called out frequently and loudly, “Rockville Centre people over here!” On the subway — to the chagrin of many straphangers — she shouted out the name of the station where the group should get off, and at each station along the way, how many more stops there were. “I’m like the field trip chaperone,” Davoudiasl joked. She started a number of chants, including her favorite, “Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like.”
Another “resistance” group, Together We Will Long Island, seeks to “educate and empower Long Islanders to take definitive action to safeguard our human rights, preserve our democracy and demand that our government uphold these principals,” according to its Facebook page. About 10 members of the group took part in the Women’s March, many expressing their discontent with the Republican majority in Congress and the actions of the president.
“It’s a sign of standing together, acknowledging that we do not accept what’s been happening in this country at the moment,” Sharon Golden, a Hewlett resident and a member of Together We Will Long Island’s leadership council, said of the march. “I really pray that the resistance groups, all of them as we stand together in solidarity, show those in power that we have power and that we will be using it, and that they better be doing something different than what they’re doing or they will no longer be in power.”
“I marched to stop the war in Vietnam. I think our marches are going to stop the Trump presidency,” said member Cheryl Bennett, a Merrick resident. “[I’m] trying to let the GOP know that the population does not want a dictator for president.”
Together We Will members met up with members of another group, Action Together Long Island, to form a larger Long Island contingent at Penn Station — where a musician was singing John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
“We see this as sort of the springboard to energizing and activating and setting the tone for the coming 2018 midterms,” said ATLI founder Julia Fenster, of Dix Hills. “We want people to know that even after a year of working hard, seeing some successes, seeing some hits, that we’re still in this together, we’re continuing to fight for our country.”
East Rockaway resident Vicki Alspector said she was marching because she was concerned about the Trump administration’s policy of business and environmental deregulation. “People should understand that regulation protects us, and doing away with regulations are doing away with protections against safety,” she said, citing regulations for clean water and safe toys.
“I’m embarrassed for my generation,” Alspector, who is 63, added. “We were supposed to change all this nonsense, and we’re making it worse.”
Maria Casini, of Malverne, said she was marching to protect equality. “Equal rights is so important,” she said. “Equal pay is so important, and I think that empowering women to vote and also run for office for issues are things that are important to us.
“It’s all about voting and the power of voting, and it just felt like we were a part of the democratic process,” Casini added. “This is what democracy is all about.”