Hundreds of demonstrators rallied at Times Square to protest against President Trump’s derogatory comments on Jan. 15. Last week the president allegedly made derogatory remarks disapproving immigration from El Salvador, Haiti, and Africa and referenced those nations and the continent as “shithole.” The crowd of mostly Haitian protesters came out to voice their displeasure with the President’s comments, including some elected officials.
“I was looking for the shithole, and I found it and the shithole was Donald Trump’s mouth,” said Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams (D–Flatbush), who represents a district with one of the city’s biggest Haitian populations.
Dozens of elected officials including Mayor DeBlasio, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. Councilman Brad Lander (Cobble Hill), Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (D–Sunset Park), Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte (D– Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (D–Flatbush), Assemblyman Nick S. Perry (D–Canarsie), Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, and many more were in attendance to show their support.
DeBlasio praised the city’s Haitian community, and also took a jab at Trump, condemning his comments.
“We are celebrating something good and powerful in the American experience, not having to protest something ugly and disgusting coming from the White House,” he said.
Reverend Al Sharpton also spoke during the protest and led the crowd with the chant, “forward ever, backward never.
But not everyone was a fan of some of the speakers choice of words. One activist who spoke at the rally invoked the names of Haitian police brutality victims Abner Louima and Patrick Dorismond, and said President Trump represents only a small part of a larger preexisting issue facing the country overall.
“This isn’t the first time the Haitian community has been disrespected and Trump is not the first, because the law disrespects us everyday,” said Albert Saint Jean, an organizer for Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI).
He says city politicians were more focused on Trump rather than what immigrants in the city face locally like fear of Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“Before Trump, there were thousands waiting to be deported for low-level offenses, and it got me angry that no one mentioned that because it doesn’t feel like a sanctuary city,” he added. “They were all giving the same platitudes, and they didn’t talk about deportations happening right here in New York, or the people getting caught up because the police department is making it easier for ICE.”
President Trump’s comments added on to previous comments he allegedly made about Haitians in a June meeting about immigration, where he reportedly stated that Haitian immigrants “all have AIDS.”
Saint Jean said those sentiments have always been challenged by Haitian-Americans and that is something many people forget.
“It didn’t reopen old wounds but what it did for me it was ignore them — the wounds were always open but never really dealt with and they glossed over it,” he said.
He said the large turnout at the rally was a moment of pride for him as a Haitian-American, but he wanted to see more mobilization. BAJI is working with a new campaign called the 1804 Movement, which aims to collaborate with other immigration advocacy groups to politically educate people about organizing and demand permanent residency for immigrants.