Several hundred local residents spent the Presidents’ Day holiday on Monday at a spirited “Not My Presidents’ Day” rally on the SUNY New Paltz campus, opposing the policies and appointments of President Donald Trump. Thousands of people in more than 20 other locales across the country, from Los Angeles to New York and Atlanta to Chicago, did the same.
Attendees in New Paltz were asked to bring a cardboard box to the event for the construction of a symbolic wall, which was knocked down at the end of the proceedings. The tumbling boxes were intended to signify a rejection of Trump’s exclusionary policies, and an adherence to the traditional American values of inclusion, diversity and equal rights.
American flags were much in evidence along with a variety of homemade signs and a “Trumpty-Dumpty” egg-like marionette created by Brian Obach, one of the rally organizers.
The event was co-sponsored by Move Forward New York, United University Professions, Women’s March New Paltz, the New Paltz Student Association, Indivisible CD19 NY, Olive Action Group and Hudson Valley Feminists.
Speakers included educator Debra Clinton, founder of Move Forward New York; educator Glenn Geher, activist and founding member of Move Forward New York; sociologist Brian Obach; political scientist Ilgu Ozler, president of the Hudson Valley chapter of Amnesty International; and New Paltz Deputy Supervisor Daniel Torres.
The mid-Hudson Valley-based Tin Horn Uprising, an activist brass marching band, got the crowd revved up from the start and set an energetic tone for the speeches that followed. (The group’s name reflects the history of mid-19th century Hudson Valley farmers organizing for land rights who picked up their tin dinner horns and blew them as a call to political action; when the horn blew, the community gathered in support.)
The speakers urged those present to “stand up and speak out.”
“It’s up to you and me,” said Glenn Geher, “to make sure that no matter what happens, the American dream stays alive, for all people.”
Debra Clinton began her remarks by getting a laugh from those assembled when she noted the large crowd, saying that, “by Trump standards, I think we’re up to about a million people now.” She quickly moved onto more serious ground, urging people to continue to contact their representatives and keep up the pressure on them, including “our absentee congressman Faso; the newly elected puppet of the Republican agenda who is really not listening to the needs of his constituents.”
The crowd cheered loudly when the speakers struck a particularly resonant chord. “We must demand an investigation into Flynn’s connection with the Russians,” Clinton said. “We must call out Kellyanne Conway when she describes terrorism that never happened. And we have to pressure the president when he references Fox News instead of the intelligence community.”
To those who say “he’s the president now, get over it,” she added, “I will not get over it. I will not allow racism to rule our country. I will not stand aside as ‘DJT’s’ sexist remarks become acceptable. I will not stand aside as he wastes our money to build a wall.”
Speaking directly to Trump, Clinton said, “I will not stand aside as you prevent refugees from entering our country. I will not stand aside as you discredit the media by calling them ‘fake news.’ I will not stand aside as you call the federal judges who stood up to you ‘so-called judges.’
“We are the collective majority,” she told the crowd. “Now it’s your turn. We must continue to unite together. We must hold our elected officials accountable, each and every day. We must get out the vote, and flip the House and Senate in 2018. We must move forward and return our country to a land of opportunity for all.”