This story was reported by Laura Figueroa, Emily Ngo, Matthew Chayes, Ivan Pereira, Alex Bazeley, Alison Fox and Lauren Cook. It was written by Figueroa.
President Donald Trump returned to his hometown Monday night to chants of “go away” and “not my president” from thousands of protesters who rallied for hours on the streets surrounding his namesake skyscraper.
The president arrived at Trump Tower shortly after 9 p.m. — his first time back at his glass high rise since leaving for his inauguration in January. His motorcade avoided the swarms of demonstrators packed along Fifth Avenue, who jeered and booed as news of his arrival spread.
“Love, not hate. That’s what makes America great,” shouted protesters, who took issue with the president’s response to the recent unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, spurred by white nationalist groups.
During a speech at the White House earlier Monday, Trump denounced the violence in the Virginia college town that claimed the lives of two Virginia State Police troopers and a 32-year-old anti-racism protester. But in New York City, protesters said the president should have directly disavowed groups such as the KKK and neo-Nazis on Saturday, when he first addressed the Charlottesville clashes.
Trump’s statement Monday was “too late,” said Barbara Smucker, 59, of Levittown.
“That should’ve been his initial response. It should’ve flowed out,” Smucker said outside Trump Tower, where protesters waved signs that read “Love Trumps Hate” and “Resist.”
A heavy police presence descended on Trump Tower in the hours leading up to the president’s arrival. Dozens of officers fanned across Fifth Avenue. Snipers stood guard on surrounding rooftops. City sanitation trucks filled with sand were lined up in front of Trump Tower, providing another barrier to the gilded building that is off-limits to protesters through Wednesday, when the president is expected to depart the city. Three people were arrested Monday on charges including resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, a NYPD spokesman said.
New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito joined the throngs outside of Trump Tower, saying she was there to make it clear to Trump he was “not welcome” in his hometown.
“I’m here to say enough is enough,” Mark-Viverito said as she made her way through crowds of protesters. “[Trump’s] racist policies have no place in this country and are not welcome in New York City.”
Despite the protests, Trump tweeted shortly after 11 p.m. Monday: “Feels good to be home after seven months, but the White House is very special, there is no place like it . . . and the U.S. is really my home!”
Monday’s protests included a mock funeral and die-in staged by some 60 demonstrators near Trump Tower, and a march of some 300 protesters who made their way from the New York Public Library on 42nd Street to Columbus Circle, near the Trump International Hotel.
Speaking at the mock funeral, Letitia James, the city’s public advocate, said, “This is the time when we all lay quiet and demonstrate that we are all dying from this administration.”
Renata Pumarol, deputy director for New York Communities for Change, one of the left-leaning groups that organized the mock funeral, said protesters wanted to show Trump “that this is what America looks like.”
“We’re not going to let him cover for his white supremacist foot soldiers,” Pumarol said. “We hope he sees all the different ways he’s killing us.”
At the Columbus Circle demonstration, protesters held signs that read “Trump’s AmeriKKKa” and “Make America Great: Fight Hate.”
TriBeCa resident Remy Kothe, 51, said the crowd “keeps us all going.”
“We’re trying to keep the momentum going until we vote in 2018,” Kothe said.
Although Trump’s homecoming was dominated by the sounds of boos, Councilman Joe Borelli, one of three Republicans in the 51-member City Council and a Trump surrogate, said, “It’s important to remember that there are New Yorkers like me who are happy and excited that the president is in town.”
Borelli’s Staten Island was the only borough Trump won.
Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, a Rice University professor, said Trump’s deeply unpopular standing with his hometown may have no precedent.
While Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s home of Dutchess County never voted for him for president and Jimmy Carter was a Democrat from very red Georgia, Brinkley said, “There’s not really hometown pride in Trump as there is embarrassment.”