Before the mayor’s hour-long speech, his wife, Chirlane McCray, noted that the road to justice had become “steeper and rockier” since Election Day, but stressed the need to move forward. “People like Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, and millions of other freedom fighters never gave up, no matter how many times they got pushed back and knocked down,” said McCray.
De Blasio acknowledged the very real “sense of shock and sense of confusion” many in New York and beyond have felt in the past two weeks. But he reminded everyone that after the surprising elections of Richard Nixon in 1968, Ronald Reagan in 1980, and George W. Bush in 2000, the American people had regrouped and become stronger. “Who we are as New Yorkers, who we have been for generations, is something that doesn’t change because an election went a certain way,” he told the crowd.
De Blasio gave an overview of fears that hit close to home, like the concern that health care many just recently received through Obamacare could be taken away, that tax cuts for the wealthy could eliminate other things that some rely on, and that affordable housing programs are in jeopardy. He also spoke about displacement, whether caused by the economy or changing immigration law. Will the measures set forth to protect us from another economic crash be taken away? Who will be able to stay in the country? Whose families will be disbanded because some are citizens and some are not?
De Blasio noted that as of this morning, Hillary Clinton was winning the popular vote by over 1.5 million people– a reminder that “this has just begun.” He reminded New Yorkers that theirs was “the greatest city in the world” and told them “now we get another chance to show it” by standing with those who have been targeted and encouraging others across the nation to do the same.“To all Latinos who heard their culture denigrated, we stand by you,” he said. “To all the African Americans who have heard their history denied, we stand by you. To all the women who heard their rights being threatened, we stand by you. To all the Muslims who heard their faith belittled, we stand by you. To all those in the Jewish community who heard a resonance from history that gave them real fear and cause, we stand by you. To all those in the LGBT community who heard a message of taking us backward, we will never go backward, we stand by you. To all of you, we will protect you. This is your home.”
De Blasio has not been shy about his opposition to many of the claims made by Trump during his campaign. He met with the president-elect last week and discussed these concerns, including what forced deportations would mean for the city and the country, and discouraged him from enacting a nationwide stop-and-frisk policy. He wanted Trump to know how real these fears are for so many in the city and asked him to listen to the voices of the people, including those who do not agree with him. “My essential message to him was: Remember where you come from,” de Blasio said regarding their meeting.
Perhaps the most powerful and significant moment of the mayor’s speech today was his list of promises and his guarantee not to ignore the progress this city has made. “We will use all the tools at our disposal to stand up for our people. If all Muslims are required to register, we will take legal action to block it. If the federal government wants our police officers to tear immigrant families apart, we will refuse to do it. If the federal government tries to deport law-abiding New Yorkers who have no representation, we will step in, we will work and build on the work of the City Council to provide these New Yorkers with the lawyers they need to protect them and their families. If the Justice Department orders local police to resume stop and frisk, we will not comply. We won’t trade in neighborhood policing for racial profiling. If there are threats for federal funding for Planned Parenthood in New York City, we will ensure women receive the healthcare they need. If Jews or Muslims or members of the LGBT community or any community are victimized or attacked, we will find their attackers, we will arrest them, we will prosecute them.”
He urged New Yorkers that do not already have an NYC ID to get one, and promised to never turn the paperwork over to the federal government. He told everyone to sign up for the Affordable Care Act now, and to encourage friends and family to do the same. He asked that everyone register to vote and challenged everyone not just to pray, but to pray at a house of worship other than their own, in order to display solidarity. He called for folks to volunteer and go to nycservice.org. He asked for people to speak up when they witness bias and hatred and call 911 when they witness a crime of hatred or call 311 if they have information on acts of hatred and harassment.
The mayor concluded with a message he wants everyone with fear and anxiety to understand: “This election is not an end, it’s a beginning.”
Update, 7:30pm: City Council member Margaret Chin, who represents the Lower East Side and Chinatown, issued a statement praising de Blasio for “fighting for the rights of all New Yorkers – regardless of their color, religion, LGBTQ status or national origin.” She added: “In the coming days, my office will announce details of a community gathering in my Council District to give people the information they need and the opportunity to help mobilize for the long fight ahead.”