In mid-March, when thousands of protesters took to the streets of Chicago to protest Donald Trump's rally there, eventually leading the candidate to cancel the event indefinitely, many of those watching noted that the outcome wasn't really a surprise.
After months of making divisive comments about virtually every demographic in America, Trump, who had held most of his pro-wrestling-style arena rallies in "safe" spaces—i.e. mostly white, working-class cities and towns—Trump had finally entered enemy territory: a liberal urban center. And not just any liberal urban center, but Chicago, that bleeding heart of liberal activism at the dead center of Obama's America. Disruption was inevitable.
Perhaps the same can be said about Trump's hometown. If so, we're about to find out.
On Thursday evening, Trump, alongside Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich, will be honored as a special guest at the New York State Republican Gala, a $1,000-a-plate dinner at the swanky Grand Hyatt Hotel, near Grand Central Terminal in Midtown Manhattan. But the real spectacle may be just outside, where protesters are planning to show up en masse in the hopes of shutting the whole thing down.
"Trump's rhetoric is an instigation to racist, anti-migrant and misogynist violence," Kalisa Moore, part of a group known as the Stop Trump Coalition, said in a statement, according to ThinkProgress. "As a matter of self-defense and protection of New Yorkers, we intend to do what the city's elected so-called leaders refuse to do—and shut down Trump from spreading his hateful message."
Most of the mobilization has occurred on Facebook, where several pages have called for a protest of the billionaire businessman's appearance. The largest of those, "Shut Down Trump in NYC," had over 2,000 RSVPs as of Thursday morning, and is being organized by the International Action Center, in conjunction with other social justice groups. "Trump may think New York is some kind of home base," the event page reads. "Let's show him that his racism, anti-woman chauvinism and anti-Muslim bigotry is not welcome here."
At this point, it appears the plan is to fan out on the blocks around Grand Central Terminal—right at rush hour, at an intersection that is perpetually jammed. It's the perfect setup for a shit-show—with the groups converging on the hotel from all different directions. In an email, a spokesperson for the New York Police Department told VICE that "an adequate detail of officers will be assigned" to the streets around the event, but that the gala is being held on private property, and therefore will fall under the jurisdiction of the Secret Service.
The New York GOP dinner comes just days before the state's presidential primary on April 19, and it's one of the first competitive, and crucial, nominating contests the Empire State has seen in years. Polls in New York show Trump leading the other two Republican candidates by big margins, and his recent rallies both upstate and downstate have attracted thousands. But while the reality-TV star starts and ends most of his days in Midtown, at the Trump Tower, his campaign has yet to hold an event anywhere in the five boroughs.
Since Thursday's gala isn't a Trump rally—the other candidates will also be present—the battle between the dueling pro- and anti-Trump forces is not likely to be as visible as it has been at some of the Donald's other performances. Online, his supporters don't appear to have organized any official counter-rally to defend their candidate in New York, although some have issued a virtual call-to-arms, asking fellow Trump fans to show up at the Grand Hyatt to block the protesters. "We need to counter this. This has to stop," one supporter wrote on Facebook. "These are not protestors they are anarchist and need to be held accountable."
At this point in the presidential race, messy anti-Trump protests have become a routine part of the news cycle. But in New York City, where the Trump juggernaut all began, resentment toward the hometown candidate is tangible. The front page of New York Daily News has been cycling anti-Trump headlines almost every day, and leading elected officials—particularly New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, a vocal, if unhelpful, Hillary Clinton surrogate—now barely even acknowledge that Trump lives here.
The opposition to the Republican frontrunner is so combustible that a few weeks ago, hundreds of people turned up to protest Trump outside his New York hotels—and he wasn't even in town. The question tonight is, what will happen when he is?
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