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Immigrant New Yorkers Debate Trump at Rally in the Bronx

The former president who is currently on trial in Manhattan was met with a rowdy scene of marijuana smoke, protest and unwavering support.

Thousands of New Yorkers gathered in South Bronx’s Crotona Park on Thursday to hear the former president give a defiant speech amidst his ongoing criminal trial currently taking place in Lower Manhattan. Local residents of the neighborhood, many of them immigrants, came out to protest or voice support for the presidential candidate.  

The crowd was an eclectic mix of New Yorkers mingling amongst the heavy fog of marijuana smoke. Although passionate debates and outright arguments could be heard, those attending were in a festive mood, giving the rally the energy of a carnival more than a political event. Locals, hoping to take advantage of the large crowds, gathered to sell everything from MAGA hats, anti-Biden t-shirts, bottles of water, and even ice cream. 

In the crowd, multiple New Yorkers waved Dominican flags and wore Make America Great Again hats. During his campaign, Trump has been actively courting the Latino vote as polls show that his popularity is soaring in that community. 

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Pilar Red, an immigrant Trump supporter from Ecuador said that she doesn’t feel threatened by the former president’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. 

“I think he has a patriotic rhetoric,” she said. “He defends his people as any president should. I hope he protects Christian values that is why we support him as Christian Latinos.”

A modest counter-protest organized by the Bronx Palestine Solidarity Committee was staged on the lawn next to Claremont Parkway, roughly 350 feet from where former president Trump gave his speech. The protesters chanted “the people from the Bronx say, fuck Donald Trump,” and held flags, and signs that supported Palestine. One of the posters said, “We may not live in Palestine but Palestine lives in us.” 

Around 7 p.m., an hour after the rally started, the counter-protesters drew attention from Trump supporters who shouted slurs towards the group, denouncing the Democratic party, Biden, and Palestine, at which point more than 30 police officers stood between the groups. 

Otherwise, the rally was mostly peaceful. 

Counter protest held by Bronx Palestine Solidarity Committee and Trump supporters face off at Claremont Parkway, across Trump’s stage. Photo by Rommel H Ojeda for Documented

Meanwhile, Trump criticized Biden on the recent influx of asylum seekers. “They took the wall and instead of putting up the wall, they sold it at .5 cents on the dollar, and I said these people really want to have an open border. And that’s what happened to our country. Our country has gone through hell because of it. It’s gone to hell,” he said, mentioning the Remain in Mexico policy he implemented during his administration, which Biden has kept largely intact.

Murad Awawdeh, President and CEO of NYC Action as well as the New York Immigrant Coalition, took part in a counter-protest where he criticized Trump’s inflammatory speech.  

“It’s an insult when he comes to immigrant-rich communities where he’s literally saying he’s going to be deporting 20 million immigrants,” he told Documented. “He is someone who has continued to be incredibly divisive, spewing hatred, incredibly racist and people like him make this country worse.”

Nearby, Juan Rivera, 71, who has lived in the South Bronx all of his life reflected on the choice to hold the rally in the neighborhood. “It’s a disgusting move,” he said. “He has never done anything for us. He is so racist and other things. He should not be here at all.”  

Still, Trump’s claims on immigration resonated with some of the attendees, like Juana, 67, who emigrated from the Caribbean to New York in 1980 and has lived in The Bronx since 1990. She told Documented that she does not like how the Democratic party is running the country now, particularly disagreeing with how immigration has been handled by president Biden. 

“We are all immigrants, since the beginning of the formation of the country. We are all immigrants but we have to do it in order. And we try to respect the law of the United States for the wellbeing of all of us,” she said, adding that it took her one year and a half to complete the consular process to migrate to the United States. 

Juana, who requested Documented withhold her full name and photo due to fear of online harassment, added that she voted for Trump in 2020. 

This story was produced as part of the 2024 Elections Reporting Mentorship, organized by the Center for Community Media and funded by the NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment.

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