This Is What America Looks Like!

It's been a busy few weeks since Inauguration Day. Every week brings a barrage of consternating news, and then a protest in reaction. From the Women's March, to the anti-Muslim Ban protests, to Resist Trump Tuesday, to a protest in support of the LGBTQ community, every week offers opportunities to voice our dissent.

This is from the Women's March. Unfortunately I was feeling a bit under the weather—which turned out to be flu later!

I was completely astounded by the size of the Women's March. I was apprehensive that it would be a one-off and then everyone would go back home and move on with their lives. "Oh well, we protested that one time, and it didn't do anything." But the opposite has happened. As the weeks go on, I continue to be impressed by the number of people who come to stand in the cold on a Saturday afternoon, but also the diversity of people and the diversity of issues that they care about. At the Women's March, there were people chanting that black lives matter. At the LGBTQ protest, there were signs in support of Muslim and refugee rights. This is heartening to see. The only way a resurgence of the left will work is if we are all here for each other. 

At JFK Airport the evening the Muslim Ban Executive Order was announced.

At Battery Park in late January.  The Muslim Ban was especially reviled here in New York. As a city made up of immigrants of every stripe, we took the ban personally.

Going to a protest is a great way to be invigorated and to take heart from other people that share your concerns. It's hard to feel scared and alone when you're chanting " No hate! No fear! Refugees are welcome here!" with a few thousand other people.

Also, it's fun! There are clever signs and people drumming and dancing and playing music. The LGBTQ protest was the best for fun signs. (Please note the sign that says "Never underestimate the power of a faggot with a tambourine.") The gay community is a politically active one that is not new to protesting, and it shows. 

For a week or two, I worried that all the protesting, while making me feel better, was just a sop to my feelings and was completely ineffectual outside my liberal New York bubble. But it seems that the protests have gained some traction, forcing the administration to walk back some of its crazier overreaches, hopefully giving comfort to the people that have been targeted by these Executive Orders, and putting our representatives on notice that we are paying attention. I hope that people stay engaged, reach out to others, and organize. We need to get in formation and then we need to VOTE!

I think my favorite chant was "Show me what America looks like! This is what America looks like!"

Millions March Reportage

I started the day a little after 2 at Washington Square Park. The crowd was so massive, it was hard to get any distance on it. I was at the park until 3 or so, and people were still streaming up Fifth Avenue even though the march had started an hour ago.

As people marched around and through the triumphal arch, I wanted to make sure I included the statue of George Washington that stands against the north side of the arch. More on him, later, though.

At Union Square, the festive red and white striped booths of the holiday market made an incongruous backdrop to the protest. I'm not sure what the shopping tourists made of the protest, but I saw plenty of onlookers taking photos. The march took place on the same day as SantaCon, and I saw at least one Santa taking part.

There were a *lot* of cops lining the route of the march. These three were pretty jolly considering the chants marchers were directing their way. I guess I'd rather they be indulgent than aggressive, but their confident, even arrogant, body language said it all.

The march ended near Foley Square in front of police headquarters. The police had set up a dead end, so everyone was packed into a really tiny space. There was a constant stream of people moving in and out of the plaza as people were deciding to go home, to stay and protest some more, or to march to the Brooklyn Bridge.

At the bottom of the page there is a quote from George Washington inscribed on the pediment of the New York State Supreme Court Building in Foley Square, which I saw as I was leaving the march: "The true administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government." To me, it was a perfect summary of the point of the march, and since I'd started with a drawing of George Washington, it seemed apt to end with him as well.

If you want to see more reportage of the march, check out my friend Alex Charner's powerful work on his blog.

Eric Garner Protest Reportage

I went out to Foley Square last night with Carly Larsson, Evan Turk, and Chris Brody to reportage the protest surrounding the decision not to indict the police officer responsible for the death of Eric Garner. The first thing I noticed was how many people came out. I've seen estimates in the thousands, and that's just at Foley Square (here's a photo from above from Gothamist). It was heartening to see so many New Yorkers come out to protest, and I was especially glad to see how diverse the crowd was. Especially at the beginning of the protest, many of the protesters were very young, possibly college or even high school students.



Unlike the Occupy protest, some people had amplification, although to communicate with the whole crowd, the human microphone was in full effect.



The protest moved down to the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge (which is only a few blocks from Foley Square). Since I was hanging back a bit from the main protest group to draw, the cops formed their line right in front of me. They made an intimidating barrier. Their commanding officer was telling them "shoulder to shoulder!" as they lined up.



Since the protesters were denied access to the bridge, they started marching back to Foley Square. A lot of people carried signs saying "Black lives matter" and "End police brutality," but I found these paper cutouts really haunting. Each one had the name of a black man killed by the police: Sean Bell, Mike Brown, and Eric Garner, among others.



The protest left Foley Square so quickly, I actually lost them for a bit. I found them again down on Canal Street, at the entrance to the Holland Tunnel. The protesters had moved to try to block the tunnel, but again had been turned back by the police. If I was intimidated by the uniforms and the numbers at Foley Square, it's nothing compared to how I felt seeing riot helmets and batons.



After that, the protest moved on without me. I went down there feeling pretty down about the state of our democracy, but going home I felt buoyed by the turnout of so many people who care about what goes on. I don't know if there are more protests planned, but if you're upset, even just a little, by police brutality and the lack of accountability, I encourage you to go and see or participate.

Occupy Wall Street

The Occupy Wall Street protest in Liberty Square isn't far from where I live, so I took some time last Thursday to go down and see for myself what was going on. For the most part, I'm going to leave the discussion of the protest and its agenda for other forums. I'm all for people exercising democratic rights at all times, no matter what their message and that's all I'll say about that. As a reportage artist, I love to draw a protest, although it's not something I often do. People that are passionate, that are committed to what they're doing are interesting, and interesting to draw. They want to talk, to communicate, and that's something I understand.




One of the first things I noticed was the number of very fancy cameras around. The protest isn't really getting too much press, so I can only assume these are just people who came out to take pictures.



Here's someone taking a picture with their iPad. The guy didn't feel like a protester either (although statistically, the 99% does cast a wide net).


I'm not sure what to think about the high-end video cameras.


Here's a protester whose opinion is pretty clear.


And it wasn't all young people (although there did seem to be a lot of students). Here's a member of the Granny Peace Brigade.


And who's this fellow in his striped button-down, tie, and suit slacks? Possibly a Wall Streeter on his smoke break?


The protesters are prohibited from having any amplification system, so they've worked out a way to communicate without one. Someone in the center would make an announcement, just a few words at a time, and the message would be repeated by anyone who heard it in a rhythmic singsong that would ripple out towards the edges. It was interesting, if not always perfectly effective.


If you agreed with the point being made, you could put up your hands and wiggle your fingers. Jazz hands, everybody!


And no protest reportage is complete, in my opinion, without the cops. I know they've behaved abominably at times, and have now been accused of luring people onto the Brooklyn Bridge roadway only to arrest them. While I was there, though, the cops were standing around the perimeter of the square, making sure traffic wasn't obstructed, being pretty unobtrusive.



Let's hear it for democracy in action!