Many New Yorkers gathered in expectation to hear Mayor Bill de Blasio address concerns over Donald Trump’s presidency at Cooper Union today. Almost every seat was filled in the small auditorium; some stood to watch from the back. The diversity in the room was reflective of the unique make-up of New York: there were monks dressed in long orange gowns, Muslim women wearing hijabs, Chasidic men in tall black hats, and the mix of all races: black, brown, yellow, and white.
The mayor’s choice of location was particularly significant. The Cooper Union is where Abraham Lincoln gave a speech on the evils of slavery. Other figures have given historic speeches at the Cooper Union, including former presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Bill Clinton. The mayor’s speech marks another moment in history in the wake of political unrest, national division, and shared fears among the city’s minority groups.
The event opened with separate prayers from three people who represented different faiths— one Christian, one Jew, and one Muslim. “Make us brothers and sisters of all colors,” the Muslim concluded during his prayer.
When de Blasio took the stage, he addressed the fears people had and resolved to stand against the federal government should D.C. attempt to deport, criminalize, or cut benefits from people in the city.
“In the public discourse, we talk about the proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare,” de Blasio said. “But what it means to a family is – the health insurance they prayed they could get could suddenly be gone, and where would they turn?
“There’s a lot of fear out there….people are feeling these issues very personally,” he continued. “For so many people, an ever sharper fear – will I be able to stay in this country? That’s what’s going through the minds, that’s what’s being talked about at the kitchen tables – the fear of deportation. In this city, that’s half a million of our fellow New Yorkers, but there are so many more of their family members who happen to be documented who fear their loved one will be torn from them.”
Yet in the midst of rising fears, the mayor assured everyone. “We stand by you,” he said.
“We will protect you. This is your home. And we will fight anything we see as undermining our values. And here is my promise to you as your mayor – we will use all the tools at our disposal to stand up for our people.”
De Blasio promised to step in if the federal government imposed deportations, re-instituted stop-and-frisk, took away funding from Planned Parenthood, or discriminated against minorities.
“We are always New York,” he said amid applause. “This is New York. Nothing about who we are changed on Election Day.”
In addition to the mayor’s promise to protect the residents, he reminded everyone that the real power was within the citizens themselves. “Our City government will stand up, but the greatest power is in you – the strength and the resiliency of New Yorkers.”
De Blasio ended the speech providing practical steps to take including getting a New York resident ID, registering to vote, and signing up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
“It’s our country for all of us. And in this city, we will remember that every day, we will keep that dream alive and strong,” he concluded.
“Somos siempre Nueva York. We are always New York.”