Two days before the first presidential debate at Hofstra University, more than 100 people on Saturday gathered nearby for a “pre-debate, stop the hate” rally that pilloried Republican nominee Donald Trump.
“It’s extremely important we don’t vote for people who want to divide us and build walls,” said Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), minority leader of the Nassau County legislature, as he stood in Kennedy Memorial Park in Hempstead, about two miles from the debate site. “It’s extremely important we vote for people who will bring us together and make us stronger.”
Abrahams said he will campaign next month in Pennsylvania for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and urged those in attendance to also travel there, and to other battleground states such as Ohio and Virginia.
Abrahams and other speakers cited controversial statements Trump has made about immigrants, Muslims, women, people with disabilities and others, saying they pit Americans against one another.
Trump campaign officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Last week, Trump responded to Clinton’s allegation that half his supporters are a bigoted “basket of deplorables” by saying that “our support comes from every part of America and every walk of life” and that Clinton “divides people into baskets as though they were objects, not human beings.”
Trump in recent weeks has been courting the African-American community, but black speakers at the rally, such as the Rev. David Gates, president of the Hempstead chapter of the NAACP, were not swayed.
“I think it’s a ploy,” Gates said after the rally. “There’s no sincerity to it. Why are you waiting until the last two or three months before an election to reach out to a community you’ve ignored up to this point?”
Gates said Trump was offensive even as he tried to appeal to black voters, by saying, as he did in Michigan last month, that “you live in your poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs. . . . What the hell do you have to lose?”
“We stand to lose our freedom,” Gates told the crowd, which included many African-Americans. “We stand to lose our dignity. We stand to lose our pride.”
Joselo Lucero, whose Ecuadorean immigrant brother Marcelo was killed in Patchogue in 2008 in what authorities determined was a hate crime, said that by, for example, calling Mexican immigrants “rapists and murderers,” Trump is stoking fear that will lead to anti-immigrant violence.
“If you’re Hispanic and you’re walking down the street in different areas, people think you’re a rapist,” Lucero said. “They look at your skin color and think you’re a rapist, and you’re a target.”
Electing Trump, Lucero said, would be akin to “giving a trophy for bullying.”