A steady, heavy drizzle did not discourage the dozens of demonstrators who came out in Jersey City on Jan. 20, timing their march down Newark Avenue from Journal Square to City Hall to coincide with the inauguration of President Donald Trump in Washington, DC. Unlike the larger women’s marches, this event occurred on the same day as the Friday inauguration.
These protestors held their own “People’s Inauguration,” mirroring the protests in Washington DC that same day and preceding by one day the Women’s March on Saturday.
But what the Jersey City march lacked in attendance it more than made up in energy, as the participants chanted slogans, waved flags and carried posters for the whole 20 block walk in the rain while local police cars provided an escort.
The chants harkened back to the historic labor protests of the early 20th century and the anti-war movement of the 1960s, though the words had changed to reflect changing times and changing issues.
These protestors weren’t bemoaning the losses by Democrats in the national election the way many groups did, although there were a number of disgruntled Democrats in the crowd. This protest was the coming together of long-standing peace groups that have held events in Jersey City for a number of years.
The message they brought to City Hall included a distrust of capitalism, which they claimed caused economic disparity and violence regardless of party labels.
Some of the protestors called themselves socialists, some represented the interests of besieged immigrants, others protested the threat of perpetual war or violence risked by police encounters.
But all had the common goal of having their voices heard and with the use of megaphones managed to do so despite the increasingly heavy rain.
A new organization for a new era
Calling itself “Jersey City People’s Alliance,” the group is a new umbrella organization, a network of progressive community leaders, groups, volunteers and supporters, working on local, county, state, national and international issues that impact the lives of Jersey City residents and beyond.
The new organization included Veterans For Peace, NJ for Food & Water Watch,
Action 21, Jersey City Peace Movement, even Anakbayan New Jersey, an organization of youth and students educating, organizing, and mobilizing the Filipino people to address the issues they face both in the US and in the Philippines. Others included groups associated with local Jersey City colleges.
“We in Jersey City will stand by our immigrant community.” – Rolando Lavarro
Some of the protesters admitted they were undocumented immigrants fighting against threats by Trump to deport them.
Council President Rolando Lavarro, who became aware of the protest only as it arrived in front of City Hall, spoke to the assembly, saying that he agreed with some of their issues, especially in regards to federal policies regarding immigration.
“We in Jersey City will stand by our immigrant community,” he said.
Imtiaz Syed, who is running for city council in Ward C, also pledged support for the issues raised by the protestors.
“We have to become the loyal opposition to the administration that has taken over in Washington,” he said.
Jersey City Peace Movement director, Erik-Anders Nilsson reminded the crowd that some of the issues aren’t only about the Trump administration.
“We can’t let the previous administration off the hook,” he said. “They dropped 20,000 bombs on mostly Muslim countries. This is about peace.”
Waving posters or flags of protest, leaders of each group stepped up to lay out various concerns.
Although there was plenty of vitriol for Trump and his agenda, these groups had a number of issues that crossed over party lines, such as the need to establish a livable minimum wage and an adequate single payer healthcare system.
They said that if the federal government has been taken over by opposing forces, these groups would work to create these things on the state level. Several of the group leaders railed against U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Robert Menendez for maintaining ties to the state’s pharmaceutical industries.
“We need to clean the system, from Washington to Jersey City,” said Nilsson.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.