The protestors were mostly gone by the time I arrived at Union Square on Wednesday night. They had begun to march towards Trump Tower, stalling traffic as they held signs, phones, and contempt for the next president of the United States.
I met up with my colleague Giri Nathan at about 7:30 p.m., and the two of us started walking to catch up with the group that had traveled up Fifth Avenue. After a half hour, we were close enough to hear the noise. We soon joined the mass of people weaving through cars and chanting. A few angry drivers laid on their horns; more in taxis or other vehicles honked in patterns that indicated support. One car blasted YG and Nipsey Hussle’s “FDT (Fuck Donald Trump)” as its occupants danced on the door frames.
The majority of the crowd appeared to be twentysomethings, but there were older people scattered throughout. To my eye, no one was violent or destructive, only loud.
Giri and I got as close to Trump Tower, two miles from where the rally had started, as we were allowed. The crowd met the NYPD’s barricade, stopped, and protested within the space which it was allowed.
There were a lot of chants. I remember hearing “Fuck Mike Pence,” “Fuck Trump,” “We must reject the president elect,” “Black lives matter,” “Pussy grabs back,” and “My body, my choice,” which was followed up with the men responding “Her body, her choice.” Someone projected a message onto a building on the western side of the avenue. Part of it included “Grieve. Organize. Resist.” That message was chanted, too.
That was as close as we got from that side. I split up from Giri around 9 p.m. with the intention of going home, but after I ate a chicken halal plate and lost my urge to go home, I decided to make a second visit. I arrived around 9:40 p.m.; the crowd in the video above was gone, although the barricades remained, standing up against nothing. Protestors still surrounded the 58-story (or 68-story) building. Some chose to position themselves on nearby scaffolding.
The closest I got to Trump Tower was right in front of the gaudy lettering; the etching on the glass boasted that the building was open to the public from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Dump trucks and a line of police, as well as two rows of barricades, separated the crowd from the doorway.
The chants would start up here and there within the throng; two or three might have been going on at the same time. The crowd always seemed to regain its energy when someone peeked out of Trump Tower above. At those points, the boos would come out, along with middle fingers and “fuck you”s. It wasn’t clear who the person was but since they were in the building, they became the avatar of the building. A structure can’t see a sea of double birds, but a person can.
How did it feel to chant? I wouldn’t know, because I didn’t. I was about three people back from the barricade when I opened my mouth for the only time. I jokingly yelled at one of the cops in the line to chew his gum with his mouth closed. This prompted a short-lived “No gum chewing in uniform” chant by the people around me. The cop, who was facing the people, didn’t acknowledge it, but he did stop chewing his gum so obnoxiously.
The weather was chilly, but the atmosphere was comforting. Some of the protestors might have had more at stake than others; some might have coped by focusing on the potential humor of the situation instead of the horror. But everyone had one thing in common, and the organized yelling made it clear: They all fucking hated this guy, and it felt good to say it out loud.